How Employers Use Time Clock Rounding to Their Advantage

April 24, 2012

In certain circumstances the Fair Labor Standards Act and other employment laws may allow employers to round hours worked to the nearest quarter hour. This may save both the employer and the employee time trying to figure out the exact minute that the employee’s work started or stopped and makes it easier to calculate hours worked.

However, employers are often able to find ways to manipulate a rounding system to their advantage, and their employees’ disadvantage. These manipulations often occur within the payroll system and the employee may never notice that he or she is losing a few minutes of wages each day. A few common examples of an employer manipulating a rounding policy are:

Always Rounding to the Employer’s Advantage

In some cases an employer does not round to the nearest quarter hour. Instead, they round to the quarter hour that will benefit them. For example, if Jane arrived at 9:05, instead of rounding her start time to 9:00, the employer rounds the start time to 9:15. If the Jane left at 5:10, the employer would round her end time down to 5:00, instead of 5:15. In each of these instances the employer is not rounding to the nearest quarter hour, but is instead rounding the quarter hour that benefits them.

Using Rounding Only When it Benefit’s the Employer

An employer may also choose not to round when the rounding would benefit the employee. In these situations Jane’s 9:05 start time would not get rounded at all (to avoid rounding favorable to the employee), but if she arrived at 9:09, her start time would be rounded to 9:15 (when it favors the employer).

Requiring Small Increments of Pre-Shift or Post-Shift Work

Employers may also require employees to arrive 5 minutes early or leave 5 minutes late. This may involve an employee having to start up her computer before clocking in at the start of the day, or shutting her computer down at the end of the day after clocking out. Because the time needed to perform this work is so small, the employer rounds up at the start of the day and rounds down at the end of the day – each time at the employee’s expense. Over time, these additional minutes may add up to a significant amount of uncompensated work.

These are a few examples of how employers may use rounding practices to their advantage and an employee’s disadvantage. Some of these cases can be difficult to prove, but if an employee can provide evidence that the rounding policy resulted in them being underpaid over time, they may have a successful case.

If you think your employer may be unfairly rounding your time, you may contact one of our employment attorneys for a free and confidential consultation by calling toll-free (866) 981-4800 or filling out the form to your right.