As will happen from time-to-time, several employers have called me with the same issue this week, “Do I have to pay an employee who quit and didn’t turn in their time sheet? I have no idea how many hours he worked as I’m in an office in Bloomington and the employee was on a job site!” Now, I know all you super-smart HR professionals (yes, you know who you are because you’re reading this!) know that the FLSA has a record keeping requirement. And I know you know that the employer has to keep records for 3 years of the employee’s time worked. However, this also means that the FLSA (and many state wage and hour laws) require the employer to keep the employee’s time – not the employee!
Yes, I’m talking in circles, but it’ll make sense shortly…the employer has the duty to keep records of the employee’s time worked. However, almost always the employer makes the employee record their hours as a job duty (i.e. punching a time clock or writing down hours on a time sheet). This makes sense because (save for a two-person team owner/employee) the employer is rarely going to know the exact time an employee is working. Yet, that job duty does not alleviate the employer’s statutory duty to maintain a record of his/her hours worked. So what happens when the employee does not do this (aside from disciplining the employee for not doing their job duty of recording hours worked)?
The employer must go back and determine, to the best of its ability, the hours the employee worked, and pay him/her accordingly. This can be done by reviewing scheduled hours, talking to managers or co-workers, or worst-case, paying him/her for a full weeks’ work based on a worst-case scenario (maximum scheduled hours). Should the (probably now former) employee dispute the amount of his/her final paycheck and magically produce the missing time card, you can quickly resolve the pay dispute, likely a very nominal amount. Voila!