New iPhone Application Allows Employees to Track Hours Worked and Wages Owed
On May 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”) issued a press release announcing that there is now an application for the iPhone or iPod Touch that employees can use to easily and independently record their hours worked (including overtime and break times) and calculate wages that are owed to the employee. The free application is called “DOL-Timesheet” and is available in both English and Spanish. Although it is premature to assess whether this application will in fact be utilized by the DOL and employees in wage and hour enforcement and litigation, the emergence of the new technology serves to remind employers of the importance of accurate recordkeeping of employee hours worked and training of employees regarding policies on overtime, rest and meal breaks. In addition, to minimize the risk of an enforcement action and/or litigation and associated penalties, employers should encourage employees to come forward if they notice any disparity between the employer’s time records and the records the employee maintains independently through the application.
The description of the application on the Apple – iTunes website states: “This is a timesheet to record the hours that you work and calculate the amount you may be owed by your employer. It also includes overtime pay calculations at a rate of one and one-half times (1.5) the regular rate of pay for all hours you work over 40 in a workweek.” The description also includes a disclaimer which states, in part, that “the conclusions reached by this App rely on the accuracy of the data provided by the user.”
The application allows users to enter their daily work hours, including start times, end times, breaks and lunch periods. The application also provides for a summary of hours worked in a daily, weekly or monthly format. A report can be generated and sent by email which provides a summary of hours worked, as well as gross payment owed to the employee. For employees who work remotely (i.e. from somewhere outside the office), the feature of the application allowing for a report to be run and sent out by email may be of particular use. The application does have limitations. For example, it does not allow for tracking of tips, commissions, deductions, holiday pay, pay for weekends, shift differentials and pay for regular rest days. In addition to the tracking features, the application includes a glossary of wage and hour terms (which includes links to pertinent information on the DOL’s wage and hour website) as well as contact information for the DOL’s Wage & Hour Division.
The DOL’s press release makes clear that the application is meant to empower employees and to ensure that they are paid all wages owed to them by allowing employees to create their own records of time worked. Although the DOL presumably intends to utilize the data generated through employee use of the application to aid in its investigation of wage and hour violations, at this point, it is unclear to what extent the application data will be utilized in wage and hour enforcement and litigation. The application’s utility will ultimately depend on whether the information stored in the application is viewed as reliable by the DOL and by the courts. The reliability of the application’s timekeeping data will certainly be case-by-case, as it depends entirely on the employee’s accurate recording of hours worked, without any external checks. In addition, even putting aside those employees who may choose to intentionally fabricate their timekeeping records, there may be those employees who have misconceptions about when a work day starts and ends, thus impacting the reliability of the data stored in the application.