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Lack of documentation loses case for employee

Holly Staunch was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines. One of the issues in her lawsuit was whether she had worked 1250 in the past year which would have qualified for FMLA benefits. Continental took the position that she did not. Staunch responded by pointing to deficiencies in Continental’s record keeping system. She argued that because there were a number of tasks she performed before and after her scheduled flights that were not recorded by Continental (off the clock work), the employer failed to “maintain an accurate record” of the hours worked by the employee. As a result, she correctly argued, the burden of proving she did not work the requisite hours fell on the employer.

Continental responded by providing details of the flights on which she worked and crediting her for time worked before and after each flight. Staunch provided her own estimate of time worked but, according to the court, she “failed to present evidence of specific days and hours that she worked performing these uncompensated tasks. This undated, generalized list does not set forth specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.” In addition, the court found that some of the hours she claimed she worked were inflated. As a consequence, the court found that Continental met its burden and established Staunch did not work the requisite hours to qualify for FMLA benefits.

The Bottom Line:

Documentation wins cases. The failure to document loses cases. Employers you should take note. Think about this case in the context of your workforce. Are there employees that get paid on a guesstimate of time worked? If so, you should implement mechanisms to assure their time is accurately recorded. Are there forms or policies you have but do not use? If so, get rid of them. Your failure to follow published policies and procedures will be used against you in the future. If you are an employee, and your company keeps records based on estimates of time worked but does not want to keep accurate records, keep your own records of dates and times worked. At a later date it could make the difference of winning or losing a wage and hour claim or receiving FMLA benefits.

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