Avoiding Telecommuting Wage & Hour Pitfalls

There’s a lot to like about telecommuting. Employees who work from home are often more productive and generally report greater job satisfaction. Organizations who allow employees to telecommute can save money on office space, supplies, utility costs, employee turnover and more.

But there can be issues with telecommuting, as well. Especially when the telecommuters are overtime-eligible employees.

The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to keep accurate records of work time for all non-exempt employees. If they work more than 40 hours during any single week, you’re required to pay them overtime at the rate of one-and-a-half times their “regular rate of pay.” In some states, you may be required to pay overtime if they work more than eight hours in a single day.

Some states also require employers to furnish lunch and/or breaks if employees work over a certain number of hours in a day. How do you prove employees have taken the required breaks when those workers aren’t in your office?

It’s all too easy to slip into overtime…

For telecommuters, overtime in particular can be a problem. It’s easy for them to get involved in their work and just keep working past the regular workday end time. Sometimes people might decide on a weekend to “just check in” with their work email… and next thing they know they’ve spent an hour or two responding to messages.

The thing is, employers can be on the hook for paying overtime even if the employee doesn’t report the time. The law says employers have to pay if they’re aware the employee has worked overtime, regardless of what the employees’ timesheet or time card says. For instance, in the case of Bailey v. TitleMax of Georgia, the employee claimed he worked overtime but was pressured by his supervisor to underreport his time. The 11th Circuit stated:

If an employer knew or had reason to know that its employee underreported his hours, it cannot escape FLSA liability by asserting equitable defenses based on that underreporting. To hold otherwise would allow an employer to wield its superior bargaining power to pressure or even compel its employees to underreport their work hours, thus neutering the FLSA’s purposeful reallocation of that power.

And, of course, if you receive emails from an overtime-eligible employee that were sent over the weekend, on a holiday or in the middle of the night, it’s going to be hard to argue you weren’t aware the employees might be putting in overtime.

Even for exempt employees, where overtime isn’t a consideration, it’s a good idea to track their time. For instance, you might need their time worked information to bill clients accurately, or to calculate the profitability of a particular project or job. Even if you don’t track projects or jobs, you can use this information to evaluate department and individual workloads to ensure work is distributed equitably and that everyone is pulling his or her own weight.

A very good question!

But how are you supposed to track their time when the employees aren’t in your office?

An even better answer!

A cloud-based service such as AcroTime Time & Labor just might be the perfect solution for your telecommuting time-tracking dilemma.

Employees can clock in and out in seconds using a web browser or a smartphone app, no matter where they are. Data is stored securely in the cloud — in a data center that meets or exceeds Department of Defense standards. Your supervisors can access the relevant data themselves — review and approve timesheets and run reports — from where ever they might be working (as long as they have Internet access and a browser).

All of which makes AcroTime Time & Labor pretty much ideal for virtual offices and organizations whose employees are mobile or telecommuting.

Pair AcroTime Time & Labor with AcroTime Payroll and you’ve got a seamless payroll-processing solution that’s practically guaranteed to reduce errors, save time and save money on the whole process. And since AcroTime Payroll is part of the same cloud-based product suite as AcroTime Time & Labor, you’ll enjoy the same secure, easy anytime, anywhere access to your payroll records as to your time records. Capture punches, review and approve employee time sheets, and run payroll — all from a single log in, working with a single database, no matter where your employees are, no matter where you are.

If you’ve got a modern, 21st century telecommuting workforce, doesn’t it just make sense to also have modern, 21st century workforce management? (Hint: of course it does!)

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