Claims for alleged wage and hour violations continue to present employers with the risk of substantial liability, with back wages paid each year estimated at more than $180 million for federal claims alone. Aggressive plaintiffs’ attorneys adeptly transform their clients’ generalized workplace grievances into wage and hour claims, which are comparatively easy to state. Workers classified as exempt from receiving overtime pay allege misclassification and resulting unpaid overtime wages. Other workers claim that they never received pay for some of their hours, resulting in a similar claim for unpaid wages. Moreover, many state wage and hour laws create a maze of requirements to follow regarding the timing of payments, the contents of wage statements, the need for breaks and meals, and other aspects of timekeeping and pay. Statutes of limitations are relatively long, and it is easy to allege a class of similarly situated employees, multiplying an employer’s potential exposure. And in the absence of good timekeeping records from the employer, a court may accept an employee’s records as presumptively valid.
Recently the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) handed employees a new tool, making the stakes even higher. Since May of 2011, employees have been able to download the DOL’s new app called Timesheet onto their smartphones, which they can use to keep their own separate time records. The free app is currently compatible with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad, and the government envisions future versions for the Android, BlackBerry, and other smartphone platforms. In addition, the DOL has a printable calendar application on its website to help employees without smartphones track their time. While Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis claims that they will make it easier for workers to “stand up for their rights,” it is a certainty that these new technologies will facilitate eager plaintiffs’ attorneys in litigating wage and hour disputes against employers.
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