Bartz Law Group

Employee Rights Advocates

Time Clock Rules For Hourly Employees in California

Rules For Hourly Employees in California

Under California labor laws, the distinction between exempt and non-exempt employees carries significant weight. While exempt employees enjoy certain exemptions, non-exempt or hourly employees navigate many regulations, especially concerning time tracking. The adherence to time clock rules becomes pivotal in ensuring fair compensation and compliance with labor laws.

Hourly Employees Must Clock In and Out

In California, non-exempt employees or hourly employees are subject to labor laws that mandate overtime pay for hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek. Accurate tracking of working hours is crucial for ensuring compliance with labor laws and fair compensation. This also helps prevent disputes over pay and ensures employers are not found violating labor laws.

By requiring these employees to clock in and out, employers can maintain accurate records of their working hours, ensuring they are paid for all the time they work, including overtime. Time clock systems can range from simple paper timesheets to sophisticated electronic systems integrated with payroll software.

Rounding Rules for Employers That Use Time Increments

Employers who use time increments to track employee hours must adhere to specific rounding rules to ensure fairness and compliance with labor laws. These rules are designed to balance the interests of both employers and employees by preventing employers from systematically underpaying their employees.

Maximum Rounding Increment

The maximum rounding increment allowed by law is 15 minutes. This means employers cannot round employee times to the nearest hour or half an hour. Instead, they must round to the nearest 15-minute interval.

Neutral or Favorable Rounding

Employers’ rounding practices must be either neutral or favorable to employees. This means that employers cannot always round down employee times. Instead, they must either round up or down impartially or consistently in favor of the employee.

Seven-Minute Rule

The seven-minute rule applies to 15-minute rounding increments.  If an employee clocks in at or before the seven-minute mark within a 15-minute window, their time rounds down. Conversely, if an employee clocks in after the seven-minute mark, their time rounds up.

For example, if an employee clocks in at 9:07 or earlier, their time rounds down to 9:00. However, if an employee clocks in at 9:08 or later, their time rounds up to 9:15.

Five-Minute Rounding

When using five-minute rounding, the 2 ½ minute rule applies. If an employee clocks in at or before the 2 ½ minute mark within a five-minute window, their time rounds down. Conversely, if an employee clocks in after the 2 ½ minute, their time rounds up.

For instance, if an employee clocks in at 9:02 or earlier, their time rounds down to 9:00. However, if an employee clocks in at 9:03 or later, their time rounds up to 9:05.

Tenth-of-Hour Rounding

Tenth-of-hour or six-minute rounding involves rounding employee times to the nearest six minutes. This method is less common than 15-minute or five-minute rounding but can be more precise. When using tenth-of-hour rounding, the three-minute rule applies.

If an employee clocks in at or before the three-minute mark within a six-minute window, their time rounds down. Conversely, if an employee clocks in after the three-minute mark, their time rounds up.

For example, if an employee clocks in at 9:03 or earlier, their time rounds down to 9:00. However, if an employee clocks in at 9:04 or later, their time rounds up to 9:06.

You Cannot Be Made to Work Off the Clock

Here in the United States, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits employers from requiring or permitting hourly employees to work off the clock, which means working without being paid.

There are some limited circumstances in which it may be permissible for non-exempt employees to work off the clock, such as when they are responding to emergencies or dealing with unexpected work-related matters.

If an employer is found to have violated this rule, they may be subject to penalties, including back pay, liquidated damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees.

Common examples of time clock rule violations under California labor laws for hourly employees:

  • Requiring employees to clock in and out before or after their scheduled shifts
  • Rounding employee times to the employer’s advantage
  • Requiring employees to work off the clock
  • Failing to provide accurate time records
  • Tampering with time clocks
  • Demanding that employees check personal devices during off-hours
  • Implementing unclear or inconsistent timekeeping policies
  • Failing to train employees on time clock procedures
  • Disregarding employee complaints about time clock issues
  • Failing to take corrective action when time clock violations occur

If you believe your employer has violated time clock rules, you should keep track of your hours worked and any other relevant documentation. You should also consult with an attorney to discuss your options. An attorney can help you understand your rights and take the appropriate steps to protect them.