Wage and Hour Enforcement: There’s a Timekeeping App for That!

July 18, 2014

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Recently the US Department of Labor has decided to jump on the iPhone app creation bandwagon with a scary new twist – by creation of a time and attendance application free for download for employees to track their hours separate from their employer’s methods.

Called the DOL-Timesheet, it provides a tool for an employee to record time in and time out using their iPhone.  It tracks overtime hours worked, allows an employee to add a “punch in/out time”, edit that time, enter in and calculate their gross pay, email the report to whomever and make quick contact with the DOL’s Wage and Hour division to report wage and hour indiscretions by employers.

Yes, you heard me correctly.  A tool that empowers an employee to record their own hours in an unmanaged time system that is secondary to their employer’s de facto timekeeping methodology.  Within the App, employees are allowed to edit of their punches in and out, enter their own pay rate and make a general determination (any hours over 40) as to what is considered overtime.  Most of all, the App is completely user-driven and unmanaged, so it could be prone to severe user errors.

Even the DOL admits this in their disclaimer: “…..Further, the conclusions reached by this App rely on the accuracy of the data provided by the user.  Therefore, we make no express or implied guarantees.”

A comment on the App site went like this:

…….thought of this?!?!  It is hard enough to get employees to clock in/out, of the actual system that pays them without confusing them with an app that purports to be “invaluable in wage and hour investigations”???  I’m now waiting to hear from an employee who claims their pay is wrong because it doesn’t match the amounts on this app. Taxes? Deductions? Garnishments? Meal and rest break penalties?  Nice try, but this totally misses the mark and will only cause more wage and hour disputes!!

It doesn’t take a genius to determine that this App and the information that will be its by-product is intended to be a straight line tool for an employee to gather evidence for a potential Wage and Hour dispute.   It also has the benefit of educating an employee and making them aware of their rights under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).

The whole premise of this tool is riddled with issues.  The App was not designed to leverage the iPhone’s GPS capability and as a result, the punches in and out do not include a location stamp.  This means that an employee could potentially be recording time worked from anywhere in the world-great if you are a globetrotting consultant, but not if you report to the factory floor each day.  Using this App as a single source of employee attendance data, it would be easy for an employee to claim they were working hours when they were at home, or extending their day by an hour on each side to create “overtime creep”.

And as the comment on the App site suggested, many employees who are involved in Wage and Hour disputes often fail to observe company policy on their timekeeping systems.  It would be reasonable to expect that the employee using the DOL app should already be diligent about following their employer’s protocol within their company’s timekeeping policy.

Timekeeping and wage and hour law is not as simple as how many hours you work north or south of 40.  Its what makes up that 40 (vacation, sick time, meals and breaks) and what rate applies after 40 hours (what is the overtime 1.5x rate if you worked 10 hours at $9.00 per hour and 30 hours at $8.50 per hour?).

Company policy, Federal and State laws determine these things.  To offer a simplified App such as this to employees without the proper context (Ask an employee if he/she has read the detail of the Wage and Hour posters on the wall) can be reckless.  An employee favoring this app can develop a gulf between employees expectations based on the unmanaged system (the DOL app) versus the managed system (the employers timekeeping protocol).

Employers be aware that this is out there, and may be in use by your employees today!  I will give the Dept of Labor credit for putting responsibility to cure the “He said, She said” that can occur in the workplace by giving them a tool to be accountable with, but the complexity of this issue unfortunately shoots way beyond the capability of their tools.  If you are having challenges with your current online timekeeping and scheduling software, and are looking for ways to better manage and control the hours of your workforce, click on the link below for more info.download-our-whitepaper

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