The U.S. DOL’s Smartphone App…Made for Your Employees, Part II

The U.S. DOL’s Smartphone App…Made for Your Employees, Part II

October 2011

Prepared by the HR Support Center

As described in Part I of last month’s August 2011 HR Article of the Month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) had launched its “DOL-Timesheet” smartphone application designed specifically for employees. The app marks another step in the DOL’s strategic “Plan / Prevent / Protect” initiative of increased workplace compliance enforcement efforts. This app also serves to warn employers to ensure that systems and processes account for accurate employees’ hours worked.

Interestingly, only 10% of those who participated in the HR Support Center’s August Poll of the Month stated that they have already seen the U.S. DOL’s timesheet smartphone app. However, 50% of the participants had no awareness of its existence until taking the poll. As news of this tool continues to spread, many more employees likely will be equipped with it and be more strongly positioned in wage and hour complaints.

What else does this mean for employers as employee awareness grows? At minimum, it means that employers like you must make sure the business complies with its obligations under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and can prove it in terms of:

  • Exempt versus non-exempt classifications
  • What constitutes hours worked
  • How overtime pay is calculated
  • Timekeeping documentation
  • Record retention requirements (e.g. certain payroll records must be kept for at least three years)

What added challenges are anticipated?

  • Discrepancies may exist between the employer’s and employee’s records, due to record-keeping errors (whether intentional or not) as well as limitations in the app. For example, an employee may clock in/out of the app at times which may be different from the times clocked in/out of the company’s timekeeping system.
  • An employee may intentionally manipulate the app’s time entries with the intent to get more pay.
  • In the absence of employer records, the employee’s records could be used as a basis for wage and hour claims.

What immediate actions can you take?

  • While you may set policies to regulate usage of company-provided devices including unauthorized downloads of applications, do not prohibit employees from using the app on their personal devices. Doing so may be perceived as an employer act of unlawful retaliation.
  • Require employees and their supervisors to verify (with signatures) the accuracy of time records.
  • Establish or revise any internal complaint and resolution process to allow employees to easily report pay issues.
  • Review and update as needed relevant employee handbook policies.
  • Make sure that the timekeeping and record retention systems are consistent and accurate.
  • Regularly audit the company’s time records, which need not be retained in their original form but must be accessible, clear, and identifiable.
  • Ensure that employees are properly classified as exempt or not exempt from state and/or federal overtime provisions.
  • Regularly educate and update supervisors and managers of any wage and hour law changes or related case law decisions.

With employees who are now better equipped and thus more informed of their workplace rights through the DOL’s Timesheet app (and others to come), an employer’s best defense is to build a solid compliance system that produces better records than those made by employees.