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Businesses must protect themselves against unauthorized overtime

Anyone following the stories related to Wal-Mart's labor disputes in recent years knows that wage and hour disputes can turn into a big problem for companies. Overtime disputes, in particular, are on the rise in Texas and across the country. These lawsuits can be extremely expensive and complicated, and therefore companies should take steps to guard against them.

The trouble is, companies can be liable for overtime pay violations even if management is unaware that an employee is working overtime. This is even true if the company has a rule against working unauthorized overtime. If employers are not careful, they can easily find themselves blindsided by accusations of wage violations.

Fortunately, there are steps that businesses can take to prevent this sort of activity. Firstly, employers should ensure that employees are fully aware of the company's overtime practices. Requests for overtime should be clearly articulated to employees, and include definite limits on the amount of hours employees are able to work.

Finally, if an employee has been found to have violated overtime rules, companies should be sure to pay the employee for his or her work, even it if was unauthorized. Managers may punish employees for breaking overtime regulations, but punishments should be made in the form of reprimands or suspensions, not docked pay. Employers who benefit from unauthorized work may be found liable if they do not take steps to put a stop to it.

Of course, sometimes labor and wage disputes are unavoidable. Such disputes often take a company by surprise, and can require an enormous amount of time and attention to resolve. Companies faced with such lawsuits may wish to contact an experienced business litigator for more information about their legal situation. With the proper legal assistance, companies can often resolve their disputes quickly and effectively, allowing business owners to get back to work.

Source: Business Management Daily, "Unauthorized overtime is your problem! Take steps to stop it-and punish rule-breakers," Nov. 8, 2012

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