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ASPA says USDOL claims of altered employee time records “inaccurate”

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Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — American Samoa Power Authority acting executive director, Wallon Young has disputed  “inaccurate” claims by the US Department of Labor that ASPA altered employees’ time records.

Young, responding to Samoa News inquiries, confirmed that ASPA paid out approximately $110,000 to 180 employees for time clock violations that occurred over a period of three years — from May 01, 2016 to April 30, 2019.

“One hundred and eighty ASPA employees received an average of $611 for the three year period,” Young said yesterday.

In a national news release Tuesday, the USDOL said its Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigation found that ASPA violated overtime requirements of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and will pay $110,865 to 180 employees.

A USDOL spokesperson told Samoa News Tuesday that the “investigation covered a period from May 1, 2016 through April 30, 2019.” USDOL explained that WHD investigators found that ASPA “altered employees’ time records to cap shifts at eight hours each day, regardless of the number of hours they actually worked.”

But Young told Samoa News yesterday that the USDOL “statement is inaccurate.” He said ASPA doesn't have 180 shift workers as indicated in the news release, and the 180 workers who received back wages included both regular day workers and shift workers.

“Payroll records also show that ASPA's overtime payments averaged $648,855 per year over the last 4 years,” he pointed out, and asked, “If ASPA altered time records to cap shifts at 8 hours regardless of the number of hours worked, then who were the overtime payments paid to over the last four years?”

He said payments were made to both shift and regular day workers who worked over 40 hours in any given week.

According to USDOL, ASPA’s inaccurate timekeeping violated FLSA record-keeping requirements.

According to Young, ASPA's time clock "violations" were primarily due to employees “clocking in too early — well before their normal starting time — or closing out late — well after their normal finishing time.”

For example, he said, if an employee clocks in at 7a.m. and waits until 7:30a.m. — normal starting time — for the office to open, USDOL rules require the employer to pay that employee 8 hours regular time plus 30 minutes overtime — provided the employee worked 40 hours that week.

“It doesn't matter if the employee worked or not between 7a.m. to 7:30a.m. on the day he clocked in early,” Young explained.

Another example, is if an employee clocks out at 4:15p.m., instead of 4p.m.

The employer is required to pay that employee 15 minutes overtime — provided the employee worked 40 hours that week. “Again it doesn't matter if the employee worked or not between 4p.m. and 4:15p.m. on the day that he clocked out late,” Young said.

With regards to USDOL’s claim that ASPA “altered employees’ time records” to cap shifts at eight hours each day, regardless of the number of hours they actually worked, Young said ASPA timekeepers use to deduct “early” clock-in and “late” clock-out minutes when preparing time sheets.

“Timekeepers altered time sheets to reflect actual hours worked but USDOL considered this a violation describing ASPA action as ‘altering the time records to cap shifts at 8 hours’,” he said.

To prevent further USDOL violations, “ASPA employees are no longer permitted to clock in early or clock out late unless they are attending to trouble calls or are pre-approved for overtime work,” he said. “Employees are also required to clock out when leaving the office or plant to attend to personal matters such as going to the bank or picking up children from school. Clocking in is necessary upon returning to work,” he said.

Since Samoa News published this story yesterday, there have been inquiries on whether the Governor’s Office is aware of “this serious problem” at ASPA. Samoa News points out that email questions sent to Young were also copied to the Governor’s Office and the same was done by Young in his reply.