It’s been said before: Wage and hour claims are the newest trend in the employment law area. RecentlyWal-Mart got hit with a $6.5 million judgment for violating Minnesota wage and hour laws. The judgment could increase to $2 billion depending on the penalties imposed. Apparently Wal-Mart required employees to work off the clock and denied rest and meal breaks to employees. The 151 page opinion can be found here.

What can you do to prevent a wage and hour claim? Start by classifying your employees correctly. Employees are either exempt or non-exempt. The most common types of exempt employees are executive, administrative and professional. Non-exempt employees must be paid overtime.

Keep accurate records of the hours worked by non-exempt employees. Using punch-in and punch-out clocks may be the most accurate, but at the very least have employees write their hours on a time sheet for each pay period. Iowa law requires employers to keep these records for three years.

Make policies clear to employees and managers. If breaks are given to employees, make it clear to employees that they should or must take the breaks. Make sure managers understand this as well. It seems Wal-Mart’s policy was to give workers meal and rest breaks, however, managers either directly or indirectly required employees to work during meal and rest breaks with no pay.

For more information on the wage and hour law check out the DOL website