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Thursday, June 2, 2011

App Assisted Wage Litigation


Alabama@Work
By: Tommy Eden, Attorney

Just when you thought it safe to be a small business owner, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has announced the launch of its first Apple application for smartphones, a timesheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed. Available in English and Spanish, users conveniently can track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. This new technology is significant because, instead of relying on their employers’ records, workers now can keep their own records. The DOL believes that this information “could prove invaluable during a Wage and Hour Division investigation when an employer has failed to maintain accurate employment records.” In fact, a Wage and Hour complaint can be emailed right off the links in the App.

The free app is currently compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch. The DOL has stated that it will explore updates that could enable similar versions for other smartphone platforms, such as Android and BlackBerry, and other pay features not currently provided for, such as tips, commissions, bonuses, deductions, holiday pay, pay for weekends, shift differentials and pay for regular days of rest.

For workers without a smartphone, the DOL Wage and Hour Division has a printable work hours calendar in English and Spanish to track rate of pay, work start and stop times, and arrival and departure times. The calendar also includes easy-to-understand information about workers’ rights and how to file a wage violation complaint.

Common Sense Counsel: with the U.S. Government again coming to help America’s small businesses (Ha Ha), it is time for a comprehensive Wage and Hour Compliance Review. This development is the latest challenge that employers’ face as the DOL seeks to promote employees suing their employee over wages. With the DOL’s new resources, employers can expect to face additional pressure from the government. Wage and hour compliance is one of the most difficult problems for employers. As employers try to stay competitive, employees may have a wider range of responsibilities causing the line between exempt and nonexempt employee classifications to blur. Alabama employers should conduct their own legal review of the following before a DOL compliance officer arrives “to help them:” classification of exempt, nonexempt, and independent contract workers;
• commissions, bonuses, incentive payments, and other compensation programs;
• overtime pay calculations;
• family and medical leave;
• recordkeeping requirements and DOL safe harbor employee handbook language;
• at the bottom of each pay period time record have each hourly employee sign this statement: “I affirm the above is a true and accurate record of all hours I worked during this pay period.”

Tommy Eden is a resident of Auburn, an attorney with the local office of Capell & Howard, P.C. and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at tme@chlaw.com or 334-501-1540.