You probably have no idea. But, unfortunately, for many employers, the answer is “yes.”
As one of Spokane, Washington’s top staffing firms, we know that over the past few years, many employees have been expected to work more hours, without getting paid more, in order to keep their companies afloat in a rough economy. And now some employees are striking back in the court of law, seeking payment for increased hours and/or more demanding responsibilities.
In fact, in 2011, the number of employees suing their employers under federal and state wage-and-hour laws increased by 32% since 2008.
And unfortunately, in the age of smart phones and tablets, it’s easier than ever for your employees to work overtime, without you really knowing it. What’s worse is that the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs wage and overtime, was written in 1938 – and seems vastly outdated for issues facing today’s working world.
So until new legislation is created or old legislation is cast out, what can you do to protect your company from a wage-and-hour lawsuit filed by an employee?
Here are some suggestions:
Make sure workers are classified properly.
The Department of Labor offers descriptions of job titles and duties to help ensure your workers are all properly classified as exempt or non-exempt employees. Other classifications include interns, trainees, volunteers, independent contractors, and temporary employees.
Create a policy regarding overtime and be sure to enforce it.
If part of your policy prohibits employees from working past certain hours, and you receive an email from one of them during those hours, then notify and reprimand the employee, and also document the violation. This documentation will be valuable if a lawsuit is ever filed.
Don’t just blindly sign time sheets without looking through them. Make sure overtime hours are authorized. If they’re not, then notify the employee and again, be sure to document the violation.
The bottom line is that we live in a litigious society. So to ensure your company is well protected, it’s important to be pro-active, rather than simply hoping against hope that an employee lawsuit isn’t coming down the pike in the near future. And should you have any specific legal questions regarding overtime issues, be sure to consult with your attorney.