If you typically have your employees take charge of recording and/or verifying their own hours, then you’ll want to pay attention to the outcomes of a recent lawsuit that tackles the issue of whether employers are on the hook for unpaid wages if workers forget to accurately report their hours worked.
In the case in question, the pharmacy chain CVS was recently sued by two of its pharmacy technicians (PTs) amid claims that the store failed to pay them for time spend using LEARNet, an online training tool the PTs are required to use to complete periodic, mandatory training module. Because the LEARNet program doesn’t record how long an employee takes to complete the training, the pharmacy chain requires that the PTs report the hours spent on the program outside of the store to their lead PT, who is in turn responding for documenting the time and notifying the store manager or shift supervisor to enter the hours into the payroll system.
Per the case, the evidence showed that the lead PT never verified whether the PTs were paid for the training. Further, the store manager – who was ultimately responsible for compensation – was aware that the PTs had completed their training outside of a regular work shift but deemed the work non-compensable because it constituted “continuing education.”
CVS was ultimately held liable for the unpaid work, even though it had written policies in place that prohibited work from being completed outside of a regular work shift and required all PTs to record and report all hours worked, as well as review and sign their time cards to verify that they had been paid for all hours worked. In the decision – which took place in Massachusetts – the court cited a state law suggesting that it is the employers responsibility to maintain time records for employees. The court then turned to a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decision that governs the recovery of unpaid wages when the employer’s records are inaccurate or inadequate and awarded the two employees triple damages under the state’s Wage Act, as well as statutory interest and lawyers’ fees.
So, what’s the take home message here? Ultimately, CVS had the right policies in place and had done well to have them written down, but sadly the policies attempted to shift at least some of the burden of ensuring adequate hourly work reporting to the employees themselves. Employers should certainly follow this lead, but must also at least try to be aware of when employees are working off the clock – such as responding to business emails late at night or working through a lunch hour – and ensure that they are compensated accordingly. If your workplace prohibits after hours work, be sure to inform the employee and follow disciplinary policies in accordance with those laid out in your employee handbook or other similar employee communication.
Abel can help with enacting time keeping best practices and payroll. To read more on the case – St. Pierre et al v. CVS Pharmacy – click here.