We here at Conway Legal are often asked to opine about the value of “time studies” – those mini-thesis often prepared by high-priced experts to determine the amount of time an employee or group of employees takes to perform certain tasks. They are often used by companies in defense of lawsuits where the central claim is that individuals were deprived of wages. A classic example is where Assistant Managers are deprived of overtime compensation for working more than 40 hours in a workweek. In that scenario, typically an employee is classified by the company as “exempt” (not eligible) for overtime because the work they perform is primarily management in nature. However, based upon their actual job duties, the Assistant Managers are primarily performing non-management work, such as cleaning, stocking, helping customers, processing payments on the register, counting inventory, and completing plan-o-grams. In such a case, the company being sued will use an individual or organization to prepare a time study to show that the non-management work performed by the employees is insignificant and outweighed by the time spent performing management work. The company will then argue that employees were properly classified as “executively” exempt managers. If that sounds like a lot of time and effort to defend against a claim, it is. And, often times, the studies are inherently flawed. In the end, the flawed studies conclude that employees spend more time on management work (than non-management work), and that the exempt classification is correct (when it is not).
We at Conway Legal know the tricks of the trade. While time studies can be an effective tool if used properly, on occasion they are not worth the paper they are written on.