Telecommuting Employees—how do you track their hours?
More and more employees are working remotely, which makes it trickier for employers to verify how many hours their nonexempt employees are working. Keep in mind all employees, unless they meet a specified exemption from the wage and hour laws, must be paid for every hour worked at their regular rate of pay and time-and-a-half for all hours worked over 40 in one week.
In a perfect world, employees would accurately report all hours worked on their own initiative. However it is the employer's obligation to ensure that a “reasonable time reporting procedure" is in place and that employees know how to use it.
While employers are required to pay for all hours worked and must stay informed of the time being worked through reasonable diligence, the law does not mandate that an employer undertake impractical efforts, such as comparing cell phone records or interviewing supervisors, to ensure that their employees are honestly tracking and reporting the time that they work.
The best way to protect your organization from a time-consuming and expensive wage and hour lawsuit is to implement an easy-to-use, reliable time-tracking system for hourly employees.
Put in place a clear policy advising employees they are not permitted to work outside of normal work hours without prior approval and that failure to comply may result in discipline. Also, provide a tracking system that is user-friendly for both employer and employee. Your system can be as simple as a daily log sheet or an online system accessible to employees and management, such as the free app offered by the Department of Labor: https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/timesheet-app
While you are working out the kinks, remember: you can discipline an employee for failing to comply with a time keeping policy, but you may not withhold pay for hours actually worked, even if they were worked without prior approval.