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Overseeing unscheduled telecommuter hours

Many businesses in Los Angeles and across the country have adapted to a hybrid work environment that includes unprecedented numbers of employees who work remotely part-time or always from home.

Since being able to track these workers’ nonexempt hours can be challenging, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released guidance in August of 2020 on how employers can reliably monitor unscheduled work hours. While much has changed since then, remote work in many economic sectors may be here to stay. These tips can be helpful for employers wary of accusations of wage theft violations.

The DOL guidance to employers recommends that, rather than spending hours looking through IT records for the figures, it is better to rely on employee procedures for reporting their work hours. This falls in with the employer obligations already in place regarding the record-keeping and payment of compensable hours.

Preventing the potential for wage theft claims

Under DOL guidelines, the employer must use reasonable diligence to keep track of telecommuters’ nonexempt hours. As it is relatively simple to produce records of work-issued electronic devices in use outside of a worker’s reported hours, any wage theft claim would need to challenge this standard of reasonable diligence, as it does not require the employer to go to impractical efforts to produce these records.

If the employee does not report unscheduled work hours using company procedures, the employer is under no obligation to compensate the worker for these hours or to investigate unreported hours at the company’s expense. This being said, it is advisable for the employer to regularly check telecommuter records. When there is a seasonably higher work demand or right before an important deadline, the employer should expect that employees will clock longer hours.

Setting policies to limit nonexempt hours

To control accrued expenses, employees must set policies that limit the unscheduled work hours of non-exempt employees. These workers must understand that, in order for them to work additional hours, they must first seek prior approval and that a failure to comply can result in disciplinary action. Without these policies in place, the employer may face wage and hours violation claims.

In the current economic environment, California business owners face increasing challenges to their ability to balance growth and productivity while remaining in compliance with a blend of federal and state labor laws. Making sure that they have ironclad contracts and succinct policies in place can help employers succeed when there are labor disputes.