KEEPING TIME « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles


California’s Standards for Tracking Workplace Hours

Employers must maintain accurate records of all time worked by hourly employees.  Labor Code 1174(d). Management may not prohibit employees from keeping a personal record of such work time.

Accordingly, time records – whether manual or electronic – should include an hourly worker’s daily shift start and end times and the beginning and end times for any meal period.

Other best practices:

  1. Clearly written policy requiring all labor to be “on the clock” and making each employee responsible for her/his accurate daily timekeeping, with the consequences spelled out for: ● false, altered or destroyed time records; ● time clocked prior to the actual start of work or after the actual end of the shift; and ● time recording for another employee;
  1. Policy and practice requiring employees:  ● to attest to such accuracy and to management’s provision of daily meal periods and rest breaks; and ● to report immediately any timekeeping errors or claimed break deprivations to management; and
  2. Regular audits of time records to confirm accurate and compliant time recording, including any pattern of employees working through meal periods.

Employers may also implement policy to calculate work time by rounding to the nearest tenth or one-quarter of an hour as long as the employee is paid for all hours worked over a period of time. See, See’s Candy v. Superior Court, 210 Cal.App.4th 889 (2012).

However, such rounding practices cannot apply to the 30-minute meal break. See, Kennedy Donohue v. AMN Services, Inc., 11Cal. 5th 58 (2021).

In contrast to the federal standard that allows employers to avoid paying wages for a worker’s few seconds or minutes of labor after clocking out (the de minimis” rule),  California requires companies to pay employees for every moment of work, e.g., exiting a store and locking up after setting an alarm or walking co-workers to their cars. See,  Troester v. Starbuck’s, 5 Cal.5th 829 (2018).

Rejecting the argument that tracking what might be trivial amounts of “after clock” work time was unreasonably difficult, the California Supreme Court in Troester observed that technological advances – e.g., smartphone apps – enable and require employers to be proactive in measuring and paying for such extra labor regularly performed.

Take-Away: California employers can face expensive legal challenges and significant liability for failure to operate from clearly stated, compliant timekeeping practices and for neglecting to regularly confirm all hourly workers are following suit. See also:

For further information, please contact Tim BowlesCindy Bamforth or Helena Kobrin.

Timothy Bowles
April 1, 2022

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