In another example of how easy it is for an employee to get to trial on a claim for unpaid overtime, in Moran v. Al Basit LLC, 14-2335 (6th Cir. 2015), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week reversed a district court decision granting summary judgment for the employer on a former employee’s Fair Labor Standards Act claim. Most notable about the decision is that the only evidence presented by the employee in support of his claim was his own uncorroborated testimony.
Jeffrey Moran was employed as a mechanic at an auto repair shop from summer 2011 to spring 2013. He was paid $300 a week plus “a little extra” as a bonus on a few occasions, but he was never paid any overtime pay. Moran claimed that he worked 65 to 68 hours a week. His testimony was not based on any written records of his hours worked. Rather, it was based on his imprecise recollections of the number of hours he generally worked each week. His former employer defended against Moran’s claim by pointing to timesheets that were created by one of the owners, who watched security camera footage each day to determine his employees’ arrival and departure times. Although Moran had a different schedule each week, these timesheets almost always reflected exactly 30 hours of work. Additionally, the manager who worked with Moran testified that Moran never worked over 30 hours a week.
The Court posed the issue in the case very succinctly: Where a former employee has presented no other evidence, is his testimony alone sufficient to defeat his former employer’s motion for summary judgment? Its answer was also very succinct: Yes. The Court found that Moran’s testimony by itself was sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact that has to be resolved at trial by a jury. He did not need to recall his hours worked with specificity, and his testimony was sufficient to contradict evidence offered by his former employer.
This case is troublesome for employers because it suggests that any non-exempt employee who claims to have worked more hours than were recorded merely has to testify that the employer’s records are incorrect to avoid summary judgment and make it to trial. If that suggestion is true, then there is little employers can do to protect themselves. However, the employer in Moran was certainly at a disadvantage in the litigation because of the odd, and arguably self-serving, manner in which its employees’ time was recorded. Employers should require that employees complete their own timesheets and certify that the timesheets accurately reflect the hours they worked. While meticulous, certified time records may not protect an employer from all claims for unpaid wages, they will allow the employer to make the best defense possible.