The scenario is common: employers have policies in place to protect the employees and the company, but getting employees to comply with the policies is difficult. For example, a company has a policy that employees have to be on-the-clock for during all of the time they are working, but there is one or two employees who habitually forget to clock-out at the end of the day. In addition to the administrative hassles this creates, there are legal issues of how much time the employer should pay the employee for.
Generally, employers are required to pay for all time that the company knows or should have known the employee was working. But legally what can employers do to ensure that employees are complying with company policy?
Starting with what employers cannot do: withhold wages from the employee. The employer cannot use withholding or deductions from wages as a disciplinary measure. This is well settled under California law.
Three Steps Employers Should Take To Have Employees Comply With Policies
1. Have well written policies.
It goes without saying, the policies need to be legal and clearly written so that employees and managers can easily understand the policies.
2. Train managers so that they understand the policies and know how what to enforce.
Managers who do not understand what they should be requiring of employees, or worse, misinterpret a company policy when enforcing it, can create a lot of legal liability for the company. Routine training for managers on common issues that arise in the workplace can do a lot to prevent litigation.
3. Discipline employees for failure to comply with the policies.
While employers cannot withhold wages as a form of discipline, employers may still write up employees who violate company policies. For example, if an employee is either intentionally or otherwise not properly recording their time, they should be counseled and written up for the violations. They also need to be warned that if the problem continues, they could be terminated. There is another benefit to having this documentation. If the company is sued in a wage and hour class action for off-the-clock work, the plaintiffs need to prove that there is a company-wide policy that permits or encourages off-the-clock work. If the company has the records of disciplining employees who were abusing the time clock system, it will be strong evidence that the company actively prohibited off-the-clock work from occurring.