How should I keep track of my work hours to prove my overtime?

You’ve been working for the same oil rig for over a year, and you have yet to receive an accurate paycheck. Every time you speak to your boss, he claims that he’s looking into it. You’ve spoken to payroll about a dozen times and although they’re happy to apologize, the issue is still ongoing.

On average, you work about 60 hours a week—sometimes more, sometimes less. However, your paychecks consistently reflect OT of only eight, nine, or ten hours over the course of a two week pay period. Your incessant complaining will sometimes get you a check from payroll for an additional 10 hours’ worth of overtime pay since payroll can only confirm 10 of the 30+ hours you actually worked over. However, these amendment checks are rare and still not enough.

You wholeheartedly believe that instead of trying to make up for the missing OT, your employer is basically hoping to pacify you with small amounts so he can continue to work you without properly paying you.

All in all, over the course of the year, you can safely say that you’ve been tricked, misrepresented, and oppressed out of over 200 hours’ worth of overtime pay. So what can you do? When your employer tells you that there isn’t a record of your overtime, how can you dispute the pay? How can you prove that you’ve worked the hours that you know you’ve worked?

Documentation, Proof, and a Helping Hand

According to the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, the Fair Labor Standards Act guarantees that oil and gas employers pay overtime for all hours worked over the 40 hour work week. Therefore, if you work 40.5 hours one week, your employer is required to pay you a half hours’ worth of overtime at time and one-half.

Unfortunately, many employers will attempt to avoid having to pay this higher rate through trickery and deceit. Some popular ploys include miscalculating hours worked, misclassifying your work title so you’re exempt from OT wages, and a host of other juvenile tactics. This is why it is extremely important to not only discuss overtime pay with your employer before signing a contract—as well as carefully reading the contract to avoid misrepresentation—but to also keep accurate records of your schedule and personal overtime. This way, when your boss or payroll personnel claims that they lost your paperwork, or can’t verify your overtime hours, you’ll have documentation to present that shows differently.

Some helpful tips on how to keep track and document your time are as follows:

  • Make a spreadsheet. Don’t rely on your employer’s records. If you use a punch card or computer log in, document the time yourself, copy the timecard, or take a photograph of the time with your phone. Keep track of your start time, breaks, lunches, and ending times.
  • Instigate a witnessed roll call. Some supervisors are willing to set up a system in which they will keep hardcopy documentation of your work hours. Implement a roll call to document break times, lunches, etc. If your supervisor refuses, take breaks and lunches with a trusted colleague in order to act as witnesses.
  • Document everything. If for any reason you must punch out, but you’re still performing tasks associated with your job, make sure you keep track of the time.
  • Keep track of your missed lunches and breaks. You’re entitled to breaks and lunches—unfortunately, you may not always be able to take a break. If you work through your designated rest periods, make sure that time is accurately accounted for on your timesheet.
  • File your pay stubs. Some wage discrepancies can take a long time to figure out and some sneaky employers will intentionally drag it out, hoping you no longer have the stub to prove the discrepancy. Make sure you keep your pay stubs for at least six months to a year after receiving them. This will not only help with payroll issues, but will also aid you with your taxes.
  • Always double check your hours and pay. Although you should be able to trust that you’re properly getting paid, human error, computer errors, and miscommunications occur all the time. Don’t allow someone else’s mistake or glitch to affect your pay. Check, double check, and even triple check to make sure you’re checks, wages, and overtime is properly represented.
  • Inform your employer when you’re about to reach overtime. Sometimes employers are oblivious to how long their employees are working. Make sure your supervisor is aware that you’re approaching overtime, in case he wants to send you home. Otherwise, you may wind up working for free.
  • Acquire legal representation. If your OT grievances are consistently being ignored, or you are continuously being underpaid for OT hours, contact an experienced overtime lawyer today. Proper representation can get you the justice and back pay you deserve.

Your Money, Our Fight

We know how employers like to avoid paying their employees. We also know how to legally convince them to pay the wages that have rightfully been earned. They’ll try to use loopholes, misinterpretations, and gray areas to their advantage. However, our experience has taught us to fight fire with fire.


Galvin B. Kennedy
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Galvin Kennedy is a founding partner of Kennedy Hodges. He focuses his practice to overtime and wage claims.