10 Things You Don’t Want to Hear Supervisor Say

Wage and Hour
by Stephen Bruce, PhD, PHR
"Supervisors get between a rock and a hard place when management says “Get it done,” but also says “No overtime.” That’s when supervisors start saying things you don’t want to hear."

1. “Clock out and then set up for tomorrow, will you?”

This, of course, is a blatant violation of the Fair labor Standards Act, but it’s surprisingly frequent. Eventually, at least one employee is going to complain, and then you’re involved in a class action or collective action that could be very expensive once you factor in all the employees involved and project back two or more years.

2. “I can’t authorize overtime, but I need you to come in early tomorrow before you clock in to sharpen the bits and set the tolerances for tomorrow’s run.”

Same deal here as above. One important point: If employees do work extra hours, you have to pay them, even if you have specified that they can’t work extra hours without permission. (You can discipline them for doing the work, but you still have to pay them for it.)

3. Stay by the phone tonight, OK? I think that we’re going to have some problems at the plant.”

One new twist in wage and hour is the rise of cell phone/e-mail use outside of work hours. If non-exempt employees are answering phone calls or dealing with e-mail off hours for more than a de minimus time frame, they are probably working and need to be paid for those hours.

4. “I’ll just take that work home, no sweat.”

Workers understand that times are tough and many do just want to help their employers out by volunteering to take some work home and not getting paid for it. That’s a wonderful gesture and it speaks well for the company and the employee, but you can’t allow it. If employees are doing your work, they have to be paid.

5. I need you to stay a few hours later tonight after you clock out; I’ll just pay you cash.

Again, this is an FLSA violation, but it’s not just a wage and hour problem. Now you’ve got the IRS involved and the regulations relating to withholding taxes—both federal and state.


Are class action lawyers peering at your comp practices? It’s likely, but you can keep them at bay by finding and eliminating any wage and hour violations yourself. Our editors recommend BLR’s easy-to-use FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide. Try it for 30 days … on us.


6. “I’m going to use non-union workers—I can get them for half the rate.”

In many jurisdictions, you’ll find prevailing wage regulations that require paying the prevailing wage on certain jobs. Prevailing wage is generally interpreted as the union wage for the area.

7. “No problem with those workers, they work for the subcontractor.”

DOL’s view is that general contractors are responsible not only for their own violations of federal labor law, but also for those committed by their subcontractors.

In general, recognize that just because you’ve outsourced some activity, you haven’t relieved your company of its legal obligations.

8. “I’ll fix up the records so it looks OK.”

Obviously, providing falsified records is not a wise practice. However, many submitted records are merely inaccurate. In fact, most experts admit that probably no organization has perfect pay records. But you certainly should try.

9. “I’m just tracking the number of hours worked a day.”

Records must be detailed. For example, “8 hours” is not enough. Note time in, time out for lunch, time in from lunch, and time out at the end of the day. Have employees sign that their time card or other record is “an accurate and full accounting of hours worked for the period.”

10. “I made her exempt—now I don’t have to worry about FLSA.”

Misclassifying (calling employees exempt who should be classified as non-exempt) is a sticky problem. There is a lot of grey area in the supervisory ranks. The general rule is that it’s better to sort out these difficulties before work begins. After the fact, there are lawsuits, class actions, and other expensive challenges to be dealt with.

Failure to pay? Overtime? Prevailing wage? Mobile devices after hours—the list of ways supervisors can create trouble seems endless. How do you really know if they are following your guidelines? There’s only one way to find out what sort of compensation shenanigans are going on—regular audits.

To accomplish a successful audit, BLR’s editors recommend a unique checklist-based  program called FLSA Wage and Hour Self-Audit. Why are checklists so great? Because they’re completely impersonal, and they force you to jump through all the necessary hoops, one by one. They also ensure consistency in how operations are conducted. And that’s vital in compensation, where it’s all too easy to land in court if you discriminate in how you treat one employee over another.

Experts say that it’s always better to do your own audit, and fix what needs fixing, before authorities do their audit. Most employers agree, but they get bogged down in how to start, and in the end, they do nothing. There are, however, aids to making FLSA self-auditing relatively easy.

What our editors strongly recommend is BLR’s FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide. It is both effective and easy to use, and even won an award for those features. Here’s what customers like about it:

  • Plain English. Drawing on 30 years of experience in creating plain-English compliance guides, our editors have translated the FLSA’s endless legalese into understandable terms.
  • Step-by-step. The book begins with a clear narrative of what the FLSA is all about. That’s followed by a series of checklists that utilize a simple question-and-answer pattern about employee duties to find the appropriate classification.

All you need to avoid exempt/nonexempt classification and overtime errors, now in BLR’s award-winning FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide. Find out more.


  • Complete. Many self-audit programs focus on determining exempt/nonexempt status. BLR’s also adds checklists on your policies and procedures and includes questioning such practices as whether your break time and travel time are properly accounted for. Nothing falls through the cracks because the cracks are covered.
  • Convenient. Our personal favorite feature: A list of common job titles marked “E” or “NE” for exempt/nonexempt status. It’s a huge work saver.
  • Up to Date. If you are using an old self-auditing program, you could be in for trouble. Substantial revisions in the FLSA went into effect in 2004. Anything written before that date is hopelessly—and expensively—obsolete. BLR’s FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide includes all the changes.

You can examine BLR’s FLSA Wage & Hour Self-Audit Guide for up to 30 days at no cost or obligation. Go here and we’ll be glad to arrange it. 

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  1. Barb        
    December 19, 2012 12:55 pm

    “I made her exempt.” Yep–there’s often little understanding among managers and supervisors about what really goes into the exempt/nonexempt designation. They truly do think it’s just a matter of a label or whether an employee gets a salary or is paid hourly. It’s up to HR to educate them.