Wages – Overtime – and Record Keeping – Oh My!
Under California law, if an employer fails to keep adequate records, employees suing to recover wages can meet their burden of proof simply by testifying that they performed work for which they have not been properly compensated. They do not have to prove the precise hours worked. They need only produce sufficient evidence to show the estimated amount and extent of such work, and an inference will be drawn that the estimate is correct, because the employer failed to maintain the most accurate records. See Beliz v. W.H. McLeod & Sons Packing Co. (5th Cir. 1985) 765 F.2d 1317, 1330-1331 (“Because precise evidence of the hours worked by each individual is not available due to the failure of [employers] to keep adequate records, the workers may satisfy their burden with admittedly inexact or approximate evidence.”).
The burden of proof then shifts to the employer to come forward with evidence of the precise amount of work performed or sufficient evidence to refute the inference drawn from the employee’s testimony. If the employer fails to meet that burden, the court awards damages to the employee according to the estimate provided by the employee. Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. (1946) 328 U.S. 680, 687-688, 66 S.Ct. 1187, 1192.