DEAR CARRIE: Our office requires employees to sign in and out on a time sheet in the front lobby. A clock that was previously at this location was removed because it was deemed “unreliable” and never replaced. The truth is it was never more than a couple of minutes off. Employees must now rely on their own phones or watches to check the time, and sometimes they have to juggle packages or bags to accomplish this. Or they have to ask someone else for the time. If all that fails, they have to “guesstimate” a time. Do labor laws require a clock to be posted by a sign-in sheet? — Questionable Time-Keeping
DEAR QUESTIONABLE: Perhaps the managers thought the company could do away with the clock because everybody has cellphones. But to know for sure, ask a manager why a more accurate clock couldn’t be installed. And tell him or her how inconvenient it is sometimes for employees to check the time in the lobby without a clock.
As for the legal aspect of your question, while employers are required to keep records of the hours that employees work, federal laws require “no particular form for the records,” according to the U.S. Labor Department’s Fact Sheet No. 21 titled “Recordkeeping Requirements Under the Fair Labor Standards Act.” But the law does require all of the information to be accurate, the Fact Sheet states. Obviously, the more precise a company’s method for keeping track of employees’ time, the more credible its records will be, especially if it is audited by the Labor Department. I am with you on this one. The company needs to replace the clock, preferably with a digital one, for accuracy’s sake.
DEAR CARRIE : I work at a company that has a lot of overtime. This year it pulled back on our overtime benefit and said we must work 40 hours before collecting overtime. It used to be that if you took a holiday or vacation or personal day, that counted toward your hours worked for the week and those days could be used to put you into overtime. Now, those days aren’t applied to our hours for the week. So we actually have to work more than 40 hours to qualify for overtime. The company says it is simply applying labor law. Is that true, or is it just pulling back on benefits? — Skinnier Benies
DEAR SKINNIER: Well, it’s a little of both. Labor laws do indeed say that hourly workers qualify for overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week, with the emphasis on “work.” So when your employer allowed you to apply paid time off to that total, it was giving you more than labor laws require. Still, your employer should have provided you information about overtime laws to clear up your doubts about whether its about-face was legal.
DEAR CARRIE: My son recently started work as an apprentice electrician. He works from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. At the end of the day, the workers drive the truck back to the shop. They are not paid for that time, even though they are driving a company vehicle. Is this practice legal? — Payless Drive
DEAR PAYLESS: No, it’s not legal. Your son, though an apprentice, is an employee, so he is on the clock when he drives from a job site back to the office and the reverse. But when he drives from the office to home or back again, that’s generally considered commuting time and isn’t paid. For more information he should call the U.S. Labor Department at 516-338-1890 or 212-264-8185.
Go to bit.ly/timeclockLI for more on record keeping requirements under federal labor laws.