In White v. Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. (PDF), the Sixth Circuit held yesterday that summary judgment was properly granted for an employer against an employee’s meal break claim, where the employee had failed to record her time worked in the employer’s timekeeping system. The hospital had provided an “exception log” mechanism that allowed employees to report when they missed a meal break, and apparently when the plaintiff took advantage of that procedure she was paid properly. Declaring use of that system “an uphill battle,” however, she eventually stopped using it, and then sued for missed meal breaks. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the employer, holding that “Under the FLSA, if an employer establishes a reasonable process for an employee to report uncompensated work time the employer is not liable for non-payment if the employee fails to follow the established process.”
While not a novel holding, the Sixth Circuit’s decision is an important reminder that an FLSA plaintiff’s burden to prove uncompensated hours worked is not necessarily a trivial requirement. Because the courts have held, following the Supreme Court held in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., that an employee’s “recollection” of hours worked may be sufficient proof where the employer lacks proper records, employers often despair of challenging that aspect of the plaintiff’s prima facie case. White reminds us that employees do have obligations in this area, and that a failure to use available timekeeping systems may shift the balance on this issue decidedly in favor of the employer.