You have a contract with one of your employees, and you trust he or she works the amount of time specified.
That was mistake No. 1 for one school, which ended up with a lawsuit because of it.
It’s a cautionary tale of record-keeping—and the application of the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Edward Donnelly, a high school teacher in Greenburgh, NY, had an employment agreement that set his hours just under the minimum needed (1,250 per year) to be covered by the FMLA.
He received good performance reviews before he took FMLA leave from Nov. 27 to Dec. 5, 2006 for gall bladder surgery. When Donnelly was denied tenure, he sued, claiming it was retaliation for his leave.
The school tried to get the case dismissed, arguing that Donnell’s agreement was to work 1,247 hours (seven hours and 15 minutes a day, 172 days per year). That’s three shy of the 1,250 minimum required to invoke the FMLA.
Donnelly, however, said that he worked about 1.5 hours before and after class every day, which would put his hours well over 1,250. He even had a performance evaluation on record that gave a thumbs up to the extra time he worked.
Skeptical that he worked that much extra? Remember all he needed to prove was three hours. Even though he couldn’t state “the specific tasks he performed” outside of the workday, the court referred to a principal’s evaluation of Donnelly that praised his working long hours.
The court noted that the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) acknowledges “job-required tasks that are part of a teacher’s primary work responsibility are regularly performed by teachers outside the hours in which the students are in the classroom.”??
Wrote the appeals court: “Even a jury that believed that Donnelly’s claim of an extra half hour per day was vastly exaggerated could still rationally and indeed without difficulty find…. that in the course of a year Donnelly worked at least three hours beyond what the CBA set as a maximum,” the appeals court determined. And the school couldn’t prove that Donnelly had only worked 1,247 hours.
Observed the HR morning blog: “Moral of the story: When it comes to tracking hours worked by employees, you can’t assume an earlier agreement will protect you from any OT obligations. In the long run, it pays to keep detailed records of who worked when.”
How do you handle record-keeping of employees' hours worked?