Another Reason to Track EVERYONE’S Time

If you still need convincing of why you should track time for all employees (exempt, non-exempt and hourly) consider the case of Donnelly v. Greenburgh Central School District No. 7.

medical leave paperwork

The facts of the case: The plaintiff was a high school teacher who claimed the school district had denied him tenure in retaliation for his having taken time off under the terms of the FMLA.

The school district argued they could not have been guilty of retaliation, as Donnelly was not eligible for FMLA leave in the first place. He worked 172 school days per year, and under the union contract, each workday was capped at 7.25 hours. This resulted in an “official” total of 1,247 hours worked per year. However, the FMLA requires a minimum of 1,250 hours before an employee is eligible to claim leave. (Seriously? We’re talking a difference of three hours here. I wonder how much it cost the school district on a per-hour basis to defend against this suit? But I digress.)

However, the plaintiff argued that the court should also take into account the well-known fact that teachers almost always put in extra time outside the regular workday grading papers, putting together lesson plans, etc.

The decision: The Second Circuit court of Appeals sided with the plaintiff and decided that after-hours work should be counted as “hours worked” for the purposes of determining FMLA eligibility. After all, even if it takes place outside the mandated workday hours, it’s still work.

The implications: Employers should track time accurately — including “after-hours” work and work from home — for both exempt and non-exempt/hourly employees. Even though exempt employees typically don’t get paid overtime, they may seek to challenge their “hours worked” for other reasons. As an employer, you need accurate time records for everyone — to avoid issues in the first place, and to be able to mount an adequate defense in the case of disputes.

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