Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Employers - Protect yourself against wage claims

Here comes another example of how an employer can protect themselves from unnecesary lawsuits. Put another way, not protecting yourself makes makes necessary an unnecessary lawsuit. I suggest reading all of The Wage and Hour Class-Action Epidemic but study these points:

1. Conduct an internal audit to determine areas of vulnerability. Because employers bear the burden of proof, they should carefully weigh the benefits and risks associated with the classification of their employees. Employers should frequently conduct audits of their payroll practices and update their classifications to ensure positions are properly classified.

This process includes: becoming familiar with the regulations and updates; reviewing all exempt positions to determine if they are properly classified; monitoring work and relevant job descriptions for exempt employees to confirm exempt responsibilities and reclassifying positions if necessary.

2. Implement changes by modifying and utilizing existing resources. Employers can use existing systems to better track hours of work. For example, existing resources such as computer systems and fob-keys can be used to mandate log-in and log-out procedures.

3. Implement ongoing training and education to ensure the laws are understood by employees.

4. Mitigate the potential for misclassification by clearly defining job duties and responsibilities. Clearly defining responsibilities with training and performance evaluations that reiterate the same message are simple ways of guarding against violation.

5. Update record-keeping practices. The successful defense of any class-action lawsuit requires that employers maintain accurate and detailed records and documentation in the event that such records are later needed to refute alleged claims. The more accurate the record-keeping system is, the less chance of being presented with an exaggerated class-action claim for overtime and unpaid wages. Time clocks or other reliable electronic systems may be the best route for an employer wanting to ensure accurate records.

6. Diversify practices. An easy way to defeat claims of class allegation is to demonstrate that your practices vary by individuals and location. You can demonstrate this by drafting job descriptions and performance evaluations that emphasize ability to use discretionary judgment. Additionally, providing local operations discretion to implement certain practices that are specific to that location also creates a record of diverse practices.