Employers Cannot Use Timekeeping Policies as a Defense to FLSA Claims

On January 15, 2015, the United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals[1] issued an opinion that helps protect the rights of employees to receive all wages owed to them under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Bailey v. TitleMax of Georgia, Case No. 14-11747 (11th Cir., January 15, 2015). In Bailey, the employee, Santonia Bailey, was pressured by her supervisor to work “off the clock” and/or was told by her supervisor not to list all the hours worked on her timesheets. TitleMax, the employer, argued that Mrs. Bailey should not be able to recover any wages under the Fair Labor Standards Act as the employee violated company policy when she worked off the clock; when she failed to accurately report her hours worked; when she failed to object to her supervisor changing her time records and when she failed to report inaccuracies in her records. In reversing the lower Court, the 11th Circuit recognized that the goal of the FLSA is to counteract the inequality of bargaining power between employees and employers. “ If an employer knew or had reason to know that its employee underreported his hours, it cannot escape FLSA liability by asserting equitable defenses based on that underreporting. To hold otherwise would allow an employer to wield its superior bargaining power to pressure or even compel its employees to underreport their work hours, thus neutering the FLSA’s purposeful reallocation of that power.”

So often in our practice, we run into situations where the employee was pressured by their supervisor to work beyond their regular scheduled hours, and to not report the overtime. In fear for their jobs, many employees don’t report overtime and perform work “off the clock”. We feel that the Bailey case is very important in these situations as it makes clear that an employer cannot use “equitable defenses” to defeat a valid claim under the FLSA when the employee didn’t report the wages based on instructions of their supervisor, even if the company has a policy that requires the reporting of all hours. In essence, this case puts the burden on the employer to police their supervisors and to assure that company policies are being followed by management,

If you have questions concerning whether you are entitled to unpaid wages, including wages for working “off the clock” or unpaid overtime, please call the Overtime Attorneys at the Law Office of J.J. Talbott today to discuss your case.

[1] (the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is the appellate court that handles federal cases for the states of Florida, Alabama, and Georgia)

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