Why is your boss tracking every minute?

True or false? When you are a salaried employee, there is no need to track your hours.

Answer: False. If you think that's wrong, it's because it was kind of a trick question. Some salaried employees don't really need to track their time, while others do. The key is in what kind of salaried employee you are.

If you're salaried exempt, it means you're not subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act requirement for overtime pay. So, whether you work 30 hours or 60 hours in a week, your paycheck is exactly the same. Therefore, you don't need to track your hours worked in order to figure out a paycheck. (Your boss can, of course, require you to track your hours anyway, and may require it.)

But, if you're salaried non-exempt, it still means you are eligible for overtime. So even if your paycheck is the same if you work 35 hours as it is if you work 40 hours, if you work 41 hours, you're owed an hour over overtime. (And, overtime requirements kick in once you pass 8 hours in a single day in California and a few other areas.) An employee in this situation sent me the following email:

I am currently employed as salaried non-exempt and I am the only one that is classified as this at my work location.

As of this week, I was told that I have to track my hours online, mostly to make sure the overtime is being paid correctly. I've worked here for almost 13 years and have never had to do this. I rarely ever have overtime, so I don't see the point.

The point is that this person is non-exempt. Every hour should have been tracked for the past 13 years, and I'm quite surprised it wasn't. Why? Because not tracking non-exempt employees' hours opens up the company for lawsuits over incorrect pay.

Even though this letter writer says she "rarely" works overtime, (and I'll presume she's paid for it when she does), there's absolutely nothing to stop her from saying, "Hey, I've actually been working 45 hours per week for the past 13 years and not received proper overtime pay." She could sue, and with no records whatsoever of actual hours worked, it would be a huge mess and while the company could (feasibly) come out on top, it would be extremely expensive. By tracking every hour, the problem is solved.

Employees might feel like they are being micro-managed when every minute must be put into a time sheet, but it's nothing personal. The manager is simply a. following the law and b. protecting the company from lawsuits. Even if the employees never try to sue for back overtime, if the Department of Labor decides to conduct an audit, they are going to ask, " Where are your time cards?" And if the answer is, "Oh, we didn't keep them, but we paid Jane overtime when it was needed," that is not going to go over well.

Smart managers follow the law, which means recording time for every non-exempt employee, salaried or not.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.