In a prior post titled Yes, You Do Have to Pay Employees for Checking E-Mail Outside of Work, we discussed steps employers can take to reduce the risk that non-exempt employees will assert unpaid wage claims for the time they spend checking and responding to e-mail (and other communications) during what would normally be the employee’s personal time. Since that post, a few inquiries have come in asking if a mobile timecard (or timesheet) application is a good way to track the amount of time employees spend on off-site and/or after-hours work communications.
The answer? They can be. Here we highlight three practical and legal considerations for employers thinking about rolling out a timecard app at work.
1. Not All Timecard Apps Are Wage-Hour Law Compliant
Federal, state and local laws have different requirements when it comes to hours worked by employees and the recording of those hours of work.
For example, New York Labor Law requires employers to provide certain employees with an uninterrupted meal period at a certain point during their shift, and a second meal period to another group of employees. While nothing in the New York Labor Law’s general recordkeeping requirements states that employers must record the actual time that an employee takes a required meal break, the New York State Department of Labor’s opinion is that “a contemporaneous record of the meal period would go a long way towards providing that one was given.”
If you’re a New York employer, then, you’ll want to make sure a timecard app records the start and stop of multiple meal periods if you’re required to give them. What you’re likely to find, though, is that most timecard apps only record the start and stop time of a single meal period.
2. Not All Timecard Apps Are Available on Both Android and iPhone
When you’re considering an app’s features (and whether those features comply with applicable wage-and-hour laws), also keep in mind that many applications are available only for Android, or iPhone, but not both. If you’re looking for an app available on both platforms, this means a smaller pool of apps to select from. If you’d be satisfied with different apps for each platform, this means making sure both applications comply with applicable wage-and-hour laws.
3. A Timecard App Is Not a Substitute for Best Practices
Even if you require your employees to record their time with a timecard app, it doesn’t mean that they’ll do so. Sometimes employees forget. Therefore, even with a timecard app, you’ll want to make sure that you follow best practices to minimize the possibility employees are performing off-the-clock work, such as those outlined here.