Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Did the 6th Circuit just guarantee jury trials in off-the-clock wage/hour cases?

One of the most difficult things to do is prove a negative. Yet, this is exactly the problem that employers face when defending wage and hour cases in which the employee alleges work performed off-the-clock. The employer says that the time clock defines the paid limits of the workday, while the employee says that s/he should be compensated for work performed outside the parameters of those clock-ins and clock-outs.

In Moran v. Al Basit LLC (6/1/15) [pdf], the 6th Circuit was faced with a simple question—does an employee need something other than his or her own testimony to establish an entitlement to unpaid compensation under the FLSA?

Sadly, the 6th Circuit ruled in the employee’s favor.
Plaintiff’s testimony coherently describes his weekly work schedule, including typical daily start and end times which he used to estimate a standard work week of sixty-five to sixty-eight hours.… However, while Plaintiff’s testimony may lack precision, we do not require employees to recall their schedules with perfect accuracy.… It is unsurprising, and in fact expected, that an employee would have difficulty recalling the exact hour he left work on a specific day months or years ago. It is, after all, “the employer who has the duty under § 11(c) of the [FLSA] to keep proper records of wages [and] hours,” and “[e]mployees seldom keep such records themselves.”
This ruling is scary, and has the potential to work extortionate results on employers. If all an employee has to do to establish a jury claim in an off-the-clock case is say, “The employer’s records are wrong; I worked these approximate hours on a weekly basis,” then it will be impossible for an employer to win summary judgment in any off-the-clock case.

Employers, the cost of defending wage-and-hour cases just went up, as did the risk for businesses. Even meticulous wage-and-hour records might not save you from a foggy memory of a disgruntled ex-employee.