October 30, 2013
An unwritten policy that discouraged employees from reporting overtime worked trumped an employer’s written policy that required employees to report all hours worked accurately. In Lockhart v. County of Los Angeles, although the county sheriff’s department had a written policy requiring the reporting of overtime hours on employees’ timesheets, deputies claimed that they were subject to an unwritten policy that prohibited such reporting. According to the deputies, this unwritten policy was communicated at the police academy, in training, and repeatedly during their employment. The deputies claimed that they complied with this policy by not seeking overtime pay for pre-shift and post-shift duties, to the knowledge of their supervisors and managers. The court found sufficient evidence of this knowledge to send the case to trial. The lesson for employers is that simply having a written overtime policy requiring the reporting of all hours worked is not enough – the employer must make sure that managers are trained on and actually enforce the written policy.