Vigilant Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law, HR, safety & workers' comp

Feb 13, 2019

Q&A: Watch out for pattern of identical time card entries

Q&AWage and Hour 

Question: We have a strict policy requiring hourly employees to receive prior approval for any overtime work. Are there any concerns with this type of policy?

Answer: Maybe. It makes sense, especially when trying to control your labor budget, to require approval of overtime work. However, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must pay an employee for any overtime worked, even when it wasn’t approved beforehand. Sometimes employees are reluctant to report any overtime worked, especially when the company sends a strong message that unauthorized overtime work is subject to discipline. This unreported work is often referred to as “off-the-clock” work.

Signs Overtime Is Not Being Reported

HR and payroll should be on the lookout for time cards submitted by employees which are always exactly the same start and end time. With the exception of shift work in a manufacturing setting, it would be unusual for an employee to start and end work at exactly the same time every single day.

Employer Rights and Obligations

Employers have the right to control employees’ work hours and schedules, although employers must pay for all time worked, even when that time is unapproved. Employees can, however, be disciplined for continuing to work overtime when not approved.

Wage and Hour Resources for Employers

If you are interested in learning more about wage and hour issues, review our frequently updated wage and hour section of our employment law blog, which includes a related article about checking e-mail after hours.

Members can see our Legal Guide, Compensation for Pre-Shift and Post-Shift Activities, for additional, detailed guidance.

If you need ongoing help with wage and hour issues or would like to speak with a Vigilant employment attorney, explore Vigilant membership. For a flat monthly fee, employers get unlimited counsel from a dedicated employment attorney, as well as access to a host of employer resources, including legal guides.

This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.