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Failure to Keep Accurate Time Records Lowers an Employee's Burden of Proof for Overtime Claims Under the FLSA

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December 18, 2008

The Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently held that an employee who sued to recover unpaid overtime will not need to present specific evidence of the hours she clams to have worked because her employer failed to keep trustworthy time records.

In Brown v. Family Dollar Stores of Indiana, after the employee was fired, she sued claiming that she was not properly compensated for overtime. While she was unable to identify with specificity the overtime hours she claimed to have worked, she testified that store managers and district managers could alter time records in the computer system and that she personally saw paychecks for other employees and herself that did not accurately reflect the number of hours actually worked. In reversing the lower court's decision, the Seventh Circuit held that while an employee generally bears the burden of proving in a lawsuit that he or she performed overtime work that was not properly compensated, when an employer fails to keep accurate records of time worked, a more lenient burden of proof must be applied. In such a case, the Seventh Circuit stated that if the employer is unable to produce evidence of the precise amount of work performed or to negate the reasonableness of the inference to be drawn from the employee's evidence, the court may award damages for unpaid overtime even though they are approximations.

This case emphasizes the importance of complying with the FLSA's recordkeeping requirements and maintaining accurate time records or risk the possibility of being found liable on claims of unpaid overtime.

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