[author: Michael Cardman, XpertHR Legal Editor]
Establishing a timekeeping system that allows employees to report any hours they work at home can shield employers from costly Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) claims, as a new federal appeals court ruling illustrates.
"[W]here the employee fails to notify the employer through the established overtime record-keeping system, the failure to pay overtime is not a FLSA violation," the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 27 in Brown v. Scriptpro, +2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 24364 (10th Cir. 2012).
The plaintiff in the Brown case claimed he was not paid overtime for 80 hours he worked at home during a four-month period in 2008. He provided undisputed evidence - including his own testimony, his wife's testimony and records of a discussion between his division's vice president and his immediate supervisor - that he had worked from home for at least some time. However, he failed to provide evidence that the 80 hours he claimed to have worked at home were "a matter of just and reasonable inference," a standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., +328 U.S. 680, 687 (1946).
The plaintiff chose not to enter any of the hours he allegedly worked from home in his employer's timekeeping system and did not keep any other record of the hours he worked. "[C]ourts only relax the plaintiff's burden to show the amount of overtime worked where the employer fails to keep accurate records," the 10th Circuit observed, citing its own ruling in Baker v. Barnard Constr. Co., Inc., +146 F.3d 1214, 1220 (10th Cir. 1998).
Because the employer kept otherwise-accurate records and employees were required to enter any hours worked at home, the employer was not liable to pay overtime for hours about which it was never notified, the court concluded.
XpertHR offers guidance about timekeeping systems in the Payroll Solutions section of the Employment Law Manual.