When an employee brings a claim for unpaid overtime under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), the employee must prove that he or she worked overtime without proper compensation. If the employer kept accurate records of the employee’s work hours, the employee could easily prove his or her case by referring to those records. For that reason, the FLSA requires that employers keep proper and accurate records of the hours its employees work. However, employers sometimes fail to keep accurate time records. As the Supreme Court has held, “[t]he solution … is not to penalize the employee by denying him any recovery on the ground that he is unable to prove the precise extent of uncompensated work. Such a result would place a premium on an employer’s failure to keep proper records.” Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680, 687 (1946). Instead, when the employer fails to maintain accurate records, the employee could prove its case by (1) proving that he or she has in fact performed work without proper compensation and (2) producing sufficient evidence to show the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference.
In Brown v. ScriptPro, LLC, 700 F.3d 1222, 1230 (10th Cir. 2012), the employee, Mr. Brown, claimed that he worked overtime hours from home. Neither ScriptPro, LLC, (“ScriptPro”) the employer, nor Mr. Brown kept time records for the hours that Mr. Brown allegedly worked from home. Through his and his wife’s testimony, Mr. Brown provided uncontroverted evidence that he worked overtime at home. However, Mr. Brown also had to prove the amount and extent of the overtime worked. Mr. Brown argued that because ScriptPro violated its statutory duty to maintain proper and accurate time records, Mr. Brown’s burden prove the amount and extent of his uncompensated overtime work should be relaxed. The court disagreed.
As the court noted, “courts only relax the plaintiff’s burden to show the amount of overtime worked where the employer fails to keep accurate records.” Brown, 700 F.3d at 1230. The court held that ScriptPro did not fail to maintain proper and accurate time records because ScriptPro had implemented a time-keeping system that employees were required to use to record their hours worked, and becuase ScriptPro’s time-keeping system was accessible to employees from their respective homes. “Mr. Brown easily could have entered his hours; in fact, he was required to do so. … There was no failure by ScriptPro to keep accurate records, but there was a failure by Mr. Brown to comply with ScriptPro’s timekeeping system.” Brown v. Scriptpro, LLC, 700 F.3d 1222, 1230 (10th Cir. 2012). Under those circumstances, the court found that ScriptPro did not violate the FLSA.
Although the Brown case was decided in the Tenth Circuit—covering Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming—it nonetheless should encourage all employers with workers who allegedly work from home to implement a time-keeping system that its employees can readily access from home.
With the proliferation of overtime wage law cases in Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, it is critical that employers be aware of the record-keeping requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Peter T. Mavrick has successfully represented many employers in labor and employment matters. This article is not a substitute for legal advice tailored to a particular situation. Peter T. Mavrick can be reached at: Website: www.mavricklaw.com; Telephone: 954-564-2246; Address: 1620 West Oakland Park Boulevard, Suite 300, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.