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HR Insights with Ali: Supreme Court Ruling Benefits Employees in Wage Claims Against Employers

Posted on 2/8/2017 by Ali Oromchian, Esq.
In a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Court simplified evidence requirements for employees seeking unpaid wages, a move which will likely impact the way that unpaid wage claims are handled in our legal system.

In Tyson Foods, Inc. v. Bouaphakeo, workers at Tyson’s chicken processing plants were required to put on and remove protective gear at the beginning and end of their shifts, but were not paid for the time spent doing so, time that workers claim made them eligible for overtime wages. Because Tyson had not considered that time as work hours, they were not keeping track of it for each employee. The question became: How do you determine how much an employee is entitled in unpaid wages if there are no specific records showing how much time that employee spent doing the “unpaid” tasks?

In Tyson, the Court allowed the plaintiff employees to present experts who testified as to the “average” amount of time that it took workers to put on and take off the gear - which is troublesome because the number of people surveyed was small, and the amount of time each person took varied widely, from half a minute to nine minutes in some instances.

The Court found that the employees had to rely upon these “averages” because Tyson had not kept records of the time each worker spent getting into/out of their protective gear. What does this ruling mean for the average small business owner?

This case serves as a reminder that the burden to maintain proper records is the responsibility of the employer. All employers should carefully consider the impact that a lack of records could have on any given claim, and remember that proper recordkeeping can protect your business.

If you are unsure as to whether your recordkeeping is sufficient to protect your business in the case of a wage claim, the HR Specialists at HR for Health are here to help. Simply open a support ticket titled “Recordkeeping” and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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