Accurate records are extremely important for employers. The employer must record the employees’ start time, when they took lunch, and when they leave at the end of the day. That is so employees can be properly paid (for overtime as well) and, significantly, it is for the employer’s protection so workers cannot inflate claims of working hours. The one thing employers must never do is to alter, edit or change those records, especially for any ulterior reason.
An Orlando hotel found this out the hard way. The hotel has been ordered to pay in excess of $400,000 in back wages and penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor concluded that the Company had, on numerous occasions, altered payroll records to avoid paying overtime. The agency found that the Sheraton Vistana Resort did not accurately record all work hours performed by the employees. The Company assessed $372,183 in back wages for 275 employees and more than $40,000 in penalties for repeat violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
The USDOL District Director stated that this resolution “puts these wages into the hands of those who earned them, and demonstrates how the Department of Labor’s enforcement protects workers and levels the playing field for law-abiding employers.” The investigation showed that supervisors directed employees to sign documents authorizing the Company to edit the times employees punched in and out. The supervisors then altered time records to indicate that employees did not work through their lunch breaks, notwithstanding that they did so.
The Company maintained that it has taken steps to ensure future compliance. A spokesperson stated that, “Sheraton Vistana Resort has agreed to pay some housekeeping associates for overtime that may not have been fully paid for a period of two years. Current procedures prevent any similar underpayments to associates.”
Keeping accurate records is essential, as it shows the hours employees worked and protects the employer in the sense that employees cannot inflate the hours they worked because the records show otherwise. This is especially so if the employer directs employees to self-certify that the hours worked are accurate. This lovely reasoning goes out the window if the employer is actively directing employees not to report hours, to work off-the-clock, or, as here, to “authorize” their supervisors to change their working hours.
A big no-no….