Are your employees going overboard on overtime? That was the case in Baton Rouge where the City discovered one employee claimed over 2,400 hours in overtime in one year. The employee, an emergency medical service supervisor, was one of many employees discovered to have claimed over 2,000 hours of overtime. The employee’s excessive overtime was in part due to the fact that the City had no system for approving overtime and overtime was rarely reviewed. Further, many departments lacked a system for certifying overtime claimed. The overtime issues were not discovered until the City’s audit in 2021.
Preventing excessive overtime can be tricky. Once an employee works overtime, they must be compensated. However, there are several safeguards employers can put in place to prevent excessive overtime:
- Enact a policy which only permits employees to work during their scheduled hours.
- Prevent certain employees from working during the late night or early morning hours when they may be less overall productive. While this policy will not work in some areas, such as law enforcement or fire protection, it may be useful especially for employees who regularly work standard day schedules.
- Require employees to notify their employer prior to working any unscheduled overtime. This will assist employers in certifying the need for overtime and determining whether overtime was properly used.
- Consider whether to cap overtime or implement flexible scheduling.
- Regularly review employee overtime to determine whether it is being used in excess. For instance, determine if one employee is claiming to have worked more overtime than most other employees.
- Create a mechanism requiring employees to report any overtime immediately after they work it.
- If overtime is necessary, especially in the face of minimum staffing requirements, consider whether additional employees should be taken on.
Enacting some or all of the above-mentioned policies can assist in preventing excessive overtime. However, it is important for employers to remember that they must compensate employees for any overtime actually worked. That being said, with the right policies in place, an employer can discipline, and potentially terminate, an employee who fails to comply with the employer’s overtime policies. Additionally, employers may take action against any employee who fraudulently claims overtime.
The attorneys at Fishel Downey regularly advise employers on issues related to employee overtime and other compensation questions. If you have a specific question or scenario, and would like assistance, contact one of the attorneys at Fishel Downey Albrecht & Riepenhoff LLP at 614-221-1216.