There are many steps business owners should take to protect their companies (and themselves personally) from employment law wage claims. In my book, the number one way to do so is to ensure that the company's timekeeping practices comply with the law.
The State of California requires employers to maintain accurate records of the work hours of non-exempt, hourly employees (whether recorded on a paper timesheet, via time clock, time tracking software, or other means.) Such records must reflect the start/end time of the employee's shift, and the start/end time of meal break(s). Employees should verify by signature that the information is accurate and reflects all hours worked for the pay period. These records should ideally be kept for at least four years.
Ensuring such good timekeeping practices also shields your company when facing claims of unpaid wages and missed meal breaks. Companies with casual, informal, or inappropriate time tracking are likely to be unprepared and unprotected from a wage and hour claim. An employee who states he worked 10 hours per day, but was routinely only paid for 8 hours, may pursue a claim through the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (the "DLSE" or the "labor board") or may seek representation by an attorney to pursue such claims in court. An employer who lacks time records documenting actual work hours and meal breaks taken may be unable to defend against such claims and face a substantial judgment for unpaid wages, significant penalties, and attorneys' fees.
Protect the interests of your company by ensuring that a proper timekeeping system is in place and consistently utilized. Make sure employees sign their timesheets and affirm the accuracy of the hours recorded. Time spent implementing the system, and following up with staff to ensure they are turning in properly completed timesheets, is a wise investment. Remember that if an employee is not completing timesheets properly or on time, the employer is still obligated to pay the wages owed, but should then counsel the employee and document the performance issue.
Laws pertaining to these issues can be complex and confusing. Employers should seek counsel regarding their obligations under the law. Contact Freeland Law APC for a free 30-minute consultation with Michael Freeland, experienced employment lawyer serving San Diego, La Mesa and El Cajon, California. Michael Freeland has been practicing law for more than 27 years and specializes in employment law matters.
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