Human Resources News & Insights

FLSA case: Staffers working from home must track their own hours

A new ruling may finally clear up a telecommuting wage-and-hour issue that’s frequently stumped HR pros.

Here are the details of the case:

Frank Brown worked as a customer service operations analyst for ScriptPro, a company that develops, manufactures, markets and sells automated prescription drug dispensing systems and related software.

Brown was far from the ideal employee — his 2007-2008 performance review noted that he was “argumentative and abusive” toward co-workers, was belligerent to customers over the phone and made colleagues uncomfortable when he stared at them as he walked by his cubicle.

Several months after his review, Brown asked his supervisor for paid time off for the upcoming birth of his second child. He said he’d worked about 80 hours from home in the preceding four months in order to take time off when his child arrived.

The sticking point: Brown didn’t record the time he worked from home in the company’s timekeeping system. How and when to report time was outlined in the company’s handbook.

Brown was given some time off and then returned to work. When he asked for some more time off to go to a doctor’s appointment with his wife, his manager refused. They got in a shouting match.

Brown was fired two days for “unresolved, previously discussed performance problems.”

He then turned around and sued, claiming, among other things, that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay him for the 80 hours he worked at home before he was fired.

‘Uncontroverted evidence?’ Don’t think so

A lower court found “uncontroverted evidence” that Brown had worked overtime, including testimony from Brown’s wife.

But in the end, the district court sided with the company.

Why? Brown was unable to show the amount of OT he worked “by justifiable or reasonable inference.”

Brown chose not to enter the hours he worked into the company’s timekeeping system. In court, Brown argued that it was the company who was responsible for keeping track of the amount of OT worked.

But the court found that ScriptPro kept accurate records, and that employees could access the timekeeping software from home.

Brown was required by company policy to add in his OT hours, yet he failed to do so — which was not the company’s fault:

Under these circumstances, where the employee fails to notify the employer through the established overtime record-keeping system, the failure to pay overtime is not an FLSA violation.

Case closed.

The takeaway: Now HR pros have judicial confirmation that employees who work from home are responsible for keeping track of their own hours — as long as companies can show they’ve set up an accurate timekeeping system.

The case is Brown v. ScriptPro, LLC.

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