Modern Timekeeping Warning: California Court Rules That Employee’s Imprecise Evidence Is Better Than Employer’s Lack Of Records

A recent decision by the California Court of Appeal has created new precedence for an employers’ obligation to track employee time records accurately.

On December 12, 2018, in the case of Furry v. East Bay Publishing, LLC, the court ruled that the employee’s “imprecise evidence,” for their hours worked was adequate to “shift the onus to the employer to either provide a specific detail on the amount of overtime or to disprove by evidence what was not correct with the employee’s figures.”

Despite an early decision by a trial court in favor of the employer, the Court of Appeal ruled that the employer could not disprove the employee’s recollection of their hours worked could entitle them to unpaid overtime wages.

The initial trial court decision had four primary components:

  1. The misclassification of the employee’s “marketing director,” position as a salaried exempt position;
  2. Paying penalties for meal periods that the employee claims they worked,
  3. Incomplete and inaccurate paystubs; and
  4. Paying the employee overtime wages for additional hours they claimed they worked.

The good news for employers is that both courts ruled in favor of East Bay Publishing regarding the meal periods because Furry could not prove that the employer “knew or reasonably should have known,” that he was routinely working through his meal periods.

The main area where the courts diverged was regarding the issue of whether the employer owed the misclassified employee overtime. The Court of Appeal stated that the trial court was incorrect in their decision to reject Furry’s overtime claim because his ‘imprecise evidence’ was still substantial enough to award him for damages since his employer failed to track reliable time records and did not supply accurate wage statements.

While the Court of Appeal’s decision on this case isn’t definitive for all cases like this one, it does point toward a trend of courts leaning in favor of the employee when they use a general recollection of their hours worked against an employer’s complete lack of records. This decision is a good reminder to employers that accurate record keeping, and proper exemption status classifications are now more critical than ever.