When I first got my smartphone, my exposure to apps was limited to the ones that my kids downloaded. I will admit to having fun using my phone as a light saber, drum set, and playing a game that saves innocent cows from alien abductions. I soon discovered there were apps for lots of things besides games. Just when I thought my smartphone phone could provide just about any resource I would ever need (except maybe a bottle opener), there’s a new app that is pretty much guaranteed to cause headaches for HR professionals.

The creator? None other than our own beloved Department of Labor. The app? A time tracking app that allows you to track your hours worked and time spent on breaks and meals. The app also helpfully includes links to the DOL rules on wage and hour laws on the department’s website. Even more conveniently, it allows you to email your time worked records and provides instructions for filing claims with the DOL. Here’s the link: DOL Time Tracking App

I’m concerned about this new app for several reasons:

1. Wage and hour laws can be complex and confusing. Instead of encouraging employees to work with their respective organizations to resolve questions and concerns, this app takes that discussion directly to the DOL – and that isn’t going to resolve anything quickly or cheaply.

2. Employees now have a tool to “stockpile” their pay concerns and then submit a claim for the past year, or more.

3. The app creates a set of duplicate records. If my phone says I was at work at 6:00 a.m., but my employer says I started at 7:00, who is the DOL going to believe?

There are some things that you can do to limit your liabilities in this area:

1. Ensure that you are following the wage and hour standards to the letter. If you aren’t certain about how to pay in a certain situation, get expert help.

2. Use an electronic time tracking system for your non-exempt employees. Especially using one with a biometric scanning feature will ensure that the time tracking is accurate.

3. Include detailed hours worked records on pay stubs and then document in your pay policy a requirement that employees report any pay concerns or discrepancies within a specified period of time. This may avoid large back payments and should make the employer records the definitive record.

Those organizations with positive employee relationships should still have the opportunity to work wage and hour questions out internally. For those organizations that aren’t following the rules or don’t have great employee relationships, this may be a great motivator to take some steps in that direction.

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