A recent federal Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit decision dismissing an employee's claim for overtime pay illustrates why an employee should keep a log of hours worked (Holaway v. Stratasys, Inc.). The employee worked out of his home and was a salaried "Field Service Engineer" who was on call to install and service three-dimensional printers manufactured by his employer. He would drive to the client and perform necessary work. As a salaried employee he did not receive overtime pay. After being terminated, he asserted an overtime claim.
Without addressing his status as exempt or nonexempt from overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Court dismissed the employee's overtime claim. The employee estimated that he worked sixty hours each week but "failed to put forth any evidence regarding specific weeks where he worked beyond forty hours." The Court found "only vague testimony [that] failed to reference specific days and hours worked." When an employer fails to keep a record of hours worked, as happened in this case, the employee is entitled to compensation "on the most accurate basis possible." However, the employee failed to provide sufficient evidence. The court stated that the employee failed to check his employer's business records and failed to take into account holidays, vacation time, and days when he was not called by his employer.
The Court's decision does not mention a travel log that individuals frequently keep for tax purposes. However, this decision and others from federal Courts of Appeal are placing a heavier burden on employees who assert a claim for overtime pay to prove the precise hours that they worked. Seemingly, the easiest way for an employee to do this is to keep a daily log of hours worked with perhaps some details concerning the location and client(s) served. Additionally, both employees and employers need to consult experienced legal counsel in wage-hour employment situations.