Human resources questions: how important is it to keep careful records of employees' hours worked?

Sept. 23, 2011
If you were ever to be challenged by an employee regarding your records of employee time worked, would you come out on the winning side? Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of Bent Ericksen & Associates explain the legal requirements for credible recordkeeping for employees’ hours worked.

Question: We play somewhat "fast and loose" with our timekeeping. We do not keep hours-worked records for exempt employees and our time sheets for nonexempt employees are, you might say, often less than complete. This has never caused us a problem. If we were challenged by an employee, however, how much validity would her records of time worked be given?

Answer: Absent credible recordkeeping by the employer, the employee's records or estimate of time worked is typically considered an accurate representation during an unpaid wages investigation. And, this issue has just become much more challenging for you.

The Department of Labor (DOL) has entered the digital age, having recently announced its first application for smartphones. That app provides a time sheet to help employees independently track regular work hours, break time, and any overtime hours. Users may add comments on information related to their work hours; view a summary of work hours in a daily, weekly, and monthly format; and email the summary of work hours and gross pay as an attachment. Both the app and a calendar can be downloaded from the Wage and Hour Division's site.

The DOL's introduction of this resource makes it essential that employers administer wage and hour matters within the parameters established by the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act), and ensure that recordkeeping mechanisms are in place. In most wage and hour cases, the number of hours worked by an employee is the primary issue. When an employee has been misclassified as exempt, employers who have not tracked the employee’s time effectively cannot refute the claim made by that employee regarding how many hours actually have been worked. The new app may have an adverse effect on the de minimis standard, which allows employers to exclude from total hours worked small increments of time that typically cannot be effectively tracked or recorded by the employer’s time-keeping methods. Employees will now be keeping track of such periods.

It is important that you clean up your recordkeeping immediately!

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The opinions expressed above are based on the writer’s comprehensive background as a human resources professional and the policies in our Bent Ericksen & Associates products having been reviewed by legal counsel. The writer is not an attorney, and the advice provided in this message should not be construed as a legal opinion. If you have legal questions after considering the advice and reading any materials referenced, it is recommended that you consult with your attorney.

Author bio
Tim Twigg is the president of Bent Ericksen & Associates, and Rebecca Crane is a human resource compliance consultant with Bent Ericksen & Associates. For 30 years, the company has been a leading authority in human resource and personnel issues, helping dentists deal successfully with the ever-changing and complex labor laws. To receive a complimentary copy of the company’s quarterly newsletter or to learn more about its services, call (800) 679-2760 or visit