Is time clock rounding legal if it’s only benefiting the company the majority of the time?

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Is time clock rounding legal if it’s only benefiting the company the majority of the time?

I work at a hotel. My shift starts at 11 pm and ends at 7 am. We are not allowed to clock in more than 5 minutes prior to our shift, however, the time clock is rounded by a quarter of an hour. I’m expected to stay after my shift to review communications with the next clerk. This is usually about 5 minutes. I typically work at least 10 extra minutes 5 days a week. I know rounding is legal, but it very rarely works in my favor. Is this still legal? If so, may I refuse to clock in or out early or late without being on grounds for termination?

Asked on September 1, 2011 Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

It may not be "stealing" per se, but it may well be a violation of labor laws. An employer must keep accurate records and must pay employees for all time worked. As a practical matter, some rounding is permitted, but generally only to less than 5 minute increments (it's not considered reasonable in most cases to have a clock which only records in 15-minute blocks) and only if the rounding more-or-less "washes out" in that it sometimes helps, sometimes hurts, the employer. Consistently roundign by a large increment in a way that benefits the employer more than the employee is likely a labor law violation. You could contact your state department of labor, or else consult with an employment law attorney. Good luck.


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