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

UPDATED: Sep 1, 2011

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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


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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