The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards for employment subject to its provisions. Unless exempt, covered employees must be paid at least the minimum wage and not less than one and one-half times their regular rates of pay for overtime hours worked.

Every covered employer must keep certain records for non-exempt employees. The FLSA requires no particular form for the records, but does require that the records include certain identifying information about the employee and data about the hours worked and the wages earned. The law requires this information to be accurate.

Records of exempt employees must also be maintained to substantiate the basis for such exemptions in case they are challenged. Only those employers whose workers are totally exempt may avoid the recordkeeping requirements.

Basic Records

The following is a listing of the basic records that an employer must maintain:

  • Employee's full name and Social Security number
  • Address, including zip code
  • Birth date, if younger than 19
  • Sex and occupation
  • Time and day of week when employee's workweek begins
  • Statement of regular hourly rate, basis on which employee's wages are paid and the nature and amount of each payment excluded from the regular rate for any week in which overtime compensation is due
  • Hours worked each day and total hours worked each workweek
  • Total daily or weekly straight-time earnings
  • Total overtime earnings for the workweek
  • All additions to or deductions from the employee's wages
  • Total wages paid each pay period
  • Date of payment and the pay period covered by the payment

Employees on Fixed Schedules

Many employees work on a fixed schedule from which they seldom vary. The employer may keep a record showing the exact schedule of daily and weekly hours and merely indicate that the worker did follow the schedule. When a worker is on a job for a longer or shorter period of time than the schedule shows, the employer must record the number of hours the worker actually worked, on an exception basis.

How Long Should Records Be Kept

Employers should keep payroll records, collective bargaining agreements, sales and purchase records for at least three years. Records on which wage computations are based, such as time cards and piece work tickets, should be kept for two years.

Format of Records

The required records need not be preserved in their original form. They may be maintained on microfilm or as a basic source document of any automatic word or data processing system, as long as:

  • The viewing equipment is accessible
  • The reproductions are clear and identifiable
  • Transcriptions are available upon request

Whatever the format used to satisfy the recordkeeping requirements, the records themselves must be accessible and available for inspection and copying at the place of employment or at one or more established central record-keeping offices. Either the Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor or a designated representative must be allowed access to the documents.

Timekeeping Method

Employers may use any timekeeping method they choose. For example, they may use a time clock, have a timekeeper keep track of employee's work hours or tell their workers to write their own times on the records. Any timekeeping plan is acceptable as long as it is complete and accurate.

Failure to Keep Records

Failure to observe the recordkeeping requirements is a violation of the FLSA for which criminal or civil sanctions may be imposed. Also, an employer who fails to maintain the required records cannot avoid liability in a wage and hour case through argument that there is insufficient evidence of the claimed hours worked. Where an employer's records are inaccurate or non-existent, courts may award damages based on an employee's recollections.

Official Notice Poster

Employers are required to post notices in conspicuous places in their establishments that inform employees of their rights under the FLSA. The Department of Labor has designed a general notice poster as well as special notices for state and local government employees, patient workers, sheltered workshop employees and Spanish-speaking employees. Each of the notices specifically advise employees of the minimum wage, overtime, child labor and coverage requirements. The poster is available at no cost from local offices of the Wage and Hour Division and toll-free, by calling 1-866-4USWage (1-866-487-9243). This poster is also available electronically for downloading and printing at the US Department of Labor Web site.

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