What happens if your boss keeps incomplete records of the hours you worked? Can a company just get away with not paying you your full and rightful wages? What if you decide to challenge your employer in court by providing your own incomplete records or witness testimony? Will you be able to make a case for wage theft based on incomplete evidence of the hours you worked?
The California Court of Appeal has issued a ruling on this very issue, and the decision could benefit workers.
Keep reading to learn a little about this major decision, as well as associated employment issues.
Don’t forget to check our main pages on overtime and rest breaks. If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to contact our office for more information.
The Case, a Brief Summary
This case, filed with the California Appeals Court First Appellate District, involved a marketing director named Terry Furry and his former employer, East Bay Publishing. In 2014, Furry sued East Bay for unpaid overtime wages, meal and rest break compensation as well as statutory penalties for inaccurate wage statements.
Furry had been an employee of East Bay Publishing going back to 1996. In 2009 he was promoted to sales and marketing director. Though he was paid a base salary of $20,000 in addition to his commissions, East Bay reportedly did not keep track of the overtime hours he worked.
After filing his lawsuit, Furry testified to working overtime hours, with some days adding up to 12 hours. Coworker testimony supported his claim.
A lower court ruled that while Furry’s employer failed to keep accurate time records, it also found that his testimony was “too uncertain to support a just and reasonable inference that he performed work for which he was not paid.”
The appellate court disagreed.
Citing precedent, the appellate court argued that once the plaintiff shows “the amount and extent of that work as a matter of just and reasonable inference,” then the burden of proof shifts to the employer to provide evidence of the precise amount of work performed.
The court further added, “If the employer fails to produce such evidence, the court may then award damages to the employee, even though the result may be only approximate.”
In simple terms, this means courts can rely on incomplete worker-supplied evidence regarding hours worked if the company doesn’t keep accurate wage records of its own. In this case, the incomplete evidence included testimony from Fury’s coworker.
A Word About Wage Theft – It Happens All The Time
The case detailed in this article is just one scenario involving employees being denied proper wages. In some cases, the practice is more overt. Sometimes, employers systematically refuse to pay their workers properly. Whatever the situation, an employee who feels they have not been paid their rightful wages should contact an attorney to discuss their situation.
You Should Keep Your Own Records
This case also illustrates something that any worker dealing with a difficult employer should keep in mind — the need to keep your own records. We generally recommend that folks keep their timesheets, paystubs, and other evidence that a jury could easily understand.
This applies whether you’re dealing with wage theft, discrimination, harassment or any number of workplace issues. This might mean keeping detailed notes of conversations or encounters with management, it might also mean saving emails, voicemails and paystubs.
If you believe you’ve experienced wage theft, or have been denied rest breaks, talk to a lawyer to discuss your situation.
Mr. Robertson also recommends that, when appropriate, people document bad behavior in the workplace. Mr. Robertson has made an entire video about this and we recommend you watch it!
Have Questions? Contact our Office
There are a lot of different unlawful situations in which a person might be denied their rightful wages. It can happen when a person works overtime hours, when a person is forced to work on their lunch break, it can even happen when a person is asked to complete small tasks after they’ve clocked out.
Whatever your situation, if your instincts tell you something is wrong, you have nothing to lose by calling an employment attorney. Our office typically doesn’t charge for initial consultations, and cases are taken on a contingency basis. Contact the office of Branigan Robertson with your questions, and find out how we can help.