Good, Bad, or Somewhere In-Between, Labor Laws Serve a PurposeIt wasn't long ago in American history that time clock labor laws didn't exist. Companies were allowed to work their employees to the bone, providing no breaks, no time off, and extremely low wages. While businesses boomed and owners got rich, workers were suffering. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that productivity drops when employees are overworked and underpaid. That's why time clock labor laws exist. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lays out guidelines that help employers maintain fair hours, wages, and overtime rules.
Whether you agree with the FLSA or not, the purpose of this article is to inform business owners and managers of the top 5 labor laws and possible local variations that can get companies in trouble if not followed. Aside from the fines you can rack up by ignoring these laws, you'll also see a drastic decline in your reputation. Thanks to the internet, one unhappy employee (or a customer who hears about employee mistreatment) can destroy a business overnight. Avoid all that hassle by learning about these 5-time clock labor laws.
Overtime is either an awesome thing or a terrible one, depending on where you're standing. Mandatory overtime is a slippery slope, and one you should probably avoid, while voluntary overtime is a bit of a grab bag. The laws around requiring overtime as a condition of employment can get a bit murky, and in some areas, it could be illegal. We can't cover every state and city, so you'll need to do some research on local laws to be sure you’re in compliance.
Generally speaking, though, to be sure you're not inadvertently breaking any time clock labor laws, it's a good idea to have clear and concise rules regarding overtime. You'll want to lay out the rules on how much overtime employees are allowed (if any at all), and if it needs to be approved first. Include the overtime rate in each employee's new-hire packet, and be ready to answer questions.
A great way to be sure everyone understands your company's overtime policies is to post it where everyone can see it, or use a mobile productivity app that all employees have access to. A mobile app is the most efficient way to get this information out to your employees, and especially handy for updates when time clock labor laws change.
Aside from being a time clock labor law, allowing and scheduling breaks for your employees is just a nice thing to do. While humans can probably work 8 or more hours straight, with no breaks or meals, it's not an ideal situation. The people who write labor laws and local regulations know this, and so breaks are mandatory.
Make this essential rest period an almost sacred time for your employees. Provide a comfortable place to get away from work, kick up their feet, and enjoy a snack or quick meal. Do not require employees to bring work with them on breaks, and don't allow anyone to interrupt those break times with work questions or emergencies. That means you'll need to be sure you have enough staff on the floor during break times to ensure employees on break won't be interrupted.
You'll want to check local regulations, but in most places, you cannot forbid your employees from leaving the premises on their breaks. Obviously, there will be some exceptions to this rule, so be diligent in studying your local laws.
Depending on where your business is located, allowing or requiring employees to perform work-related tasks while clocked out can get you fined or worse. Never allow employees to do anything work-related unless they are clocked in. That includes putting on protective gear, passing through security, or walking between buildings to finish tasks. It might be tempting to skimp on this one, but ignoring this can end up costing a bundle down the line.
Here's another one that varies widely from place to place. The "use it or lose it" policy for vacation and paid time off is illegal in many places. If your business requires employees to use all of their vacation or paid time off or risk losing it, you might be breaking the law. In many places, the local regulations require employers to either roll unused time over to the next year or pay the employee for the unused time. However you decide to handle it, be sure you check your local regulations to avoid fines.
The FLSA allows employers to track time any way they choose, but it also acknowledges the difficulty in tracking minute-by-minute for everyone. Under the FLSA time clock labor laws, companies are allowed to round up or down based on how long an employee has worked. Some use a 5-minute rule; some use 10. For employers going by 15-minute increments, there is the "7-minute rule" which states that 7 minutes of work is the cutoff for rounding down. That means if an employee works for 8 minutes, and you're following the 15-minute increment standard, you must round up, not down. Don't be tempted to fudge those numbers either, and don't forget about tip number three above; forcing employees to work while off the clock is a big no-no.
A Solution to All Your Time Clock Labor Law WorriesEven though labor laws existed before computers and mobile devices were around, it didn't stop app developers from looking at those old laws and finding a way to make them easier on business owners and managers. The many parts and pieces of the FLSA laws can be hard to keep track of, but if you have the right productivity app in your corner, you'll never have to worry about breaking one of the laws and ending up with a hefty fine. Choose a time clock app that sends preemptive alerts to overtime, mandatory breaks, and potential labor law breaches, as well as the ability to differentiate between adult and minor employees. With technology watching your back, you can avoid fines, treat your employees fairly, and improve your reputation all at once. For more helpful tips for managers, check out this article on 14 secrets to hiring the right employee.