Uncle Sam got out the cattle prod for employers this year, motivating them to track overtime wages more closely.

The good news: The Fed’s tweaking of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) isn’t all that complicated. Mainly, it clarifies definitions for the exempt employees who require overtime pay (1.5 times their regularly hourly wage) if they work in excess of 40 hours weekly. That calculation — which doesn’t necessarily rule out salaried workers – is made via government formulas, with adjustments for tipped workers and those on flex time.

Apparently misinterpretation has been common in the past; FLSA violations jumped 20 percent between fiscal 2009 and 2014, with more than $240 million in back wages owed to nearly a quarter million workers last year, the Department of Labor said.

Alarmists are calling the new law a logistics nightmare, but others are keeping it in perspective. After all, today’s efficient software can handle most any overtime-related task — everything from strategizing schedules to tracking attendance to costing out projects.

“The horror!” jokes Seattle-based blogger Paul Constant.  “Who can realistically expect employers to track time worked? It’s not as though we live in a technological wonderland where practically everything we do is uploaded to dozens of servers thousands of miles away or anything. What kind of a dystopian hell scape is this, anyway?”

Joking aside, here are tips for tracking employee overtime.

  • Review the FLSA to fully understand the changes, including which employees are exempt. State laws may impose additional regulations.
  • Make sure employees understand your process for requesting, authorizing and requiring overtime. It should address unauthorized overtime, breaks, meal times and travel time, advises HR Solutions.
  • For legal protection, employees turning in handwritten timesheets should record hours actually worked instead of identically filled-out timesheets, advises Krista M. Cabrera on LaborEmploymentPerspectives.com.
  • Consider an annual cap on overtime to preserve employee health and safety, advises www.workforce.com. In general, daily shifts should be limited to 14 hours and individuals should be limited to one additional shift weekly and two monthly.