Is your employer threatening to dock your pay? Is it true that you can clock in several minutes late and still be considered to have arrived on time? Does the amount of money on your paycheck not always match up to the number of hours that you remember working? Most employers have rules for employees – both salaried and hourly – that govern what actions an employee may be docked for, when they're supposed to arrive and leave work, and how they're supposed to handle timekeeping. But employers themselves also have rules that they have to follow. Take a look at some things that you should know about workplace timeclock rules.
Docking Rules for Salaried Employees
Salaried employees are rarely required to clock in and out, even if they're expected to be present for a defined set of hours and days. The truth is, though, that salary workers are often not held to an expectation of arriving and leaving at certain times, as long as they perform their job duties. Although 40 hours a week is the standard work week, salaried workers may work more than that some weeks and less in others, and they usually don't receive more or less money in either case.
So if you're a salaried employee, can your employer dock your pay if they decide you haven't put in enough hours? The answer is yes, but only in certain circumstances.
Your employer can dock your pay if you miss a whole day or more of work. So you can lose money if you call in sick. In some fields, this would be a very unusual action – if you routinely work extra hours or complete work at home and if you always complete tasks satisfactorily and on time, your employer is probably unlikely to dock your salaried pay because you got the flu. However, it is legal. What is not legal is docking your pay because you left work early. If you show up in the morning, but leave after lunch – either because you don't feel well or because you've completed your tasks for the day, your employer still has to pay your agreed-upon salary.
Rounding Rules for Hourly Employees
For hourly employees, the issue of rounding at the time clock is very important. Whether you slid in five minutes late, or you arrived on time with everyone else and had to stand in line for five minutes to clock in, it can be worrying to think that you might end up losing money or being disciplined for lateness.
That's why the Fair Labor Standards Act creates rounding rules for employers to follow. There are three different rounding rules that employers can choose from when setting a timeclock rounding police.
The minute rule is the rounding rule that creates the seven minute grace period that many workers are familiar with. It rounds up or down to the nearest recognized interval. So if the interval is 15 minutes, you could clock in three or five or seven minutes after start time, and it will be rounded down to the start time. But if you clock in eight or ten minutes late, it will be rounded up to 15 minutes after start time, and you'll lose a quarter of an hour's pay.
The other rules are the start-stop rule, which says that the employer should round in the employee's favor at clock-in time and in the employer's favor at clock-out time. And employers also have the option to simply round in the employee's favor every time. What an employer cannot do is round in their own favor every time. In fact, they can be fined or sued for doing so.
Altering Time Cards
Contrary to popular belief, it is legal for an employer to alter your time card. They might need to, in fact, to correct an error on your part or a time clock malfunction. What they cannot do, however, is alter your time card in a way that is untrue, in order to deny you money.
That means that if you never took a lunch break, the employer can't insert one into that day's time card. Your employer also can't remove overtime hours or shave minutes off the time card to save money. Unfortunately, this violation is common enough that a number of prominent companies have been caught doing it anyway. However, you do have legal recourse if this happens to you.
If you suspect that your employer is illegally docking your pay, rounding your time unfairly, or altering your time records with the purpose of denying you earned pay, an employment attorney can help. Make an appointment with an employment law attorney in your area to find out if you have a case.