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California employers can’t use this common timekeeping practice

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2024 | Employment Law |

There are more employment laws protecting workers in California than in other parts of the country. California has implemented laws that don’t exist elsewhere and expanded on existing federal protections. For example, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) improves upon the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). California also has higher minimum wage requirements than the federal government and more robust wage and hour protections for workers.

Sometimes, the rules that protect employees come from state statutes. Other times, they are the results of the courts ruling on specific legal issues. For example. a ruling from a court case involving a large national company has created a state precedent against a common payroll practice.

What many companies do to calculate wages

Historically, keeping highly accurate time clock information was a challenge. Businesses might only have one or two stations for workers to clock in and out, creating a choke point when shifts start and end.

Some companies worked around that limitation by implementing time clock rounding rules. Instead of paying workers down to the second, they would round the time someone started or ended a shift to the nearest billable increment. It is common for companies to pay their workers in five, 10 or even 15-minute increments. Such practices in theory allow companies to balance the need for efficiency with the need to appropriately and fully pay their workers.

However, federal employment laws give businesses the benefit of the doubt via the de minimus rule. Companies can legally excuse not paying a worker for all their time on the job if the amount of time without pay is insignificant.

California has a different approach to fair wages. Hourly workers deserve payment for all time worked according to state law and relevant court rulings. In the recent employment lawsuit involving time clock rounding in California, the ruling discussed how questionable the practice has become.

Essentially, affordable timekeeping systems and the prevalence of digital technology make time clock rounding effectively obsolete. If employers can record accurate times for when workers start and end their shifts, then the pay that they provide those workers should reflect that. Understanding the unique rules that apply to California employment arrangements may benefit workers concerned about not receiving their full wages. Workers who know the unique California standards for employment law can more effectively advocate for themselves and their coworkers.