Internet of Things Impacts Hourly Pay

As the Internet of Things invades the workplace, employers must be mindful of the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as the hourly-payment clauses of employment agreements or collective bargaining agreements.

Likewise, employees themselves should be alert to the implications of the Internet of Things.

Generally speaking the FLSA says hourly employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week.

New Time Clocks 

Traditionally a time clock was the crucial device for measuring how many hours an
employee worked.  With a punch-card time clock, calculating the number hours worked was straightforward.

But home computers and bring-your-own-devices (like smartphones) have become new sources of evidence as to when an employee works and does not work.  If the boss pesters an employee with text messages at home, those are time-stamped message records can be evidence of the employee working extra hours for which hourly and possibly overtime compensation is due.

The Proliferation of Time-Stamped Records

Enter the Internet of Things.  Now many new devices are invading the workplace, like dropcams, wearable computers, embedded systems and a menagerie of automotive gadgets.  These devices can record torrents of time-stamped data, showing when an employee was working . . . or doing something other than work.

This data could be invaluable in an investigation regarding how many hours an employee worked, or did not work.

In any given case, the evidence might cut either for the employer or for the employee.  Some evidence might prove that the employee worked more than 40 hours and was entitled to overtime. For example, the evidence might be time-stamped records showing that the employee was loading RFID-tagged boxes into a truck late into the night.

On the other hand, the employer might cite GPS, GoPro-video or other electronic evidence to prove when the employee was goofing off or moonlighting while claiming to log hours for the employer.

E-Discovery Battles

We can anticipate contests to find and evaluate all this evidence.  In employee-employer lawsuits or investigations by employee advocates (e.g., labor union or labor department) adversaries will joust over these kinds of issues:

  • ascertain all of the places and devices where records exist,
  • capture the relevant evidence, which might involve forensic recovery of hidden records and metadata,
  • interpret the evidence and calculate work-time (and play-time) from it

These contests will open opportunities for forensic consultants who understand the Internet of Things and the welter of records it creates.  The Internet of Things is spawning a multitude of oddball devices that collect and store data in non-uniform ways.

It will be hard for forensic experts to keep pace with all of the devices, all the interfaces that apply to them and all of the formats in which they store data.  Their work in the IoT will be labor-intensive.

However the evidence recoverable from the Internet of Things will be legally and financially valuable. Therefore clients will reward those forensics experts who learn to do the work.

Many Contests

A contest over hours worked is just one example of the innumerable eDiscovery contests that will sprout in the Internet of Things.  Lawsuits, criminal prosecutions, accounting scandals and tax audits will all draw evidence from the emerging army of little devices known as the Internet of Things.

By: Benjamin Wright

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