As of May 2019, records show that the average American worker clocks in around 34.5 hours a week. For many of us, that number is even higher.
Whether you are working part-time, full-time, or somewhere in between, it helps to know your legal rights and responsibilities as an employee in the U.S.
If you have long wondered — “What is the law on clocking in and out at work?” — you’ve come to the right place.
There is a range of federal laws regarding the recording of working hours. To learn more about your obligations, keep reading. And as always, visit our contact page to schedule a free case evaluation with a Morgan & Morgan attorney.
Learn About the Fair Labor Standards Act and How It Applies to You
We can’t talk about what is the law on clocking in and out at work without first defining the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This enactment was created in 1938 as a part of the federal government’s Wage and Hour Division.
The FLSA establishes youth employment standards, minimum wage, overtime pay, and record-keeping, among its many purposes. If you want to learn more about what is the law on clocking in and out at work, this is where you start.
Regarding timekeeping, employers are generally required to keep accurate records of hours, wages, and other important details. This may translate to the required use of a time clock, depending on the nature of your work and employment agreement. Keep reading, and we’ll dive a little deeper.
What the FLSA Says About the Use of Time Clocks
First, you should know that the use of time clocks is not required by federal law. However, your employer may make it a standard of your employment to keep accurate records.
When an employer uses time clocks, you may only clock in for the hours you are assigned to work.
Suppose that you voluntarily arrive before your agreed-upon starting time or linger after your agreed-upon quitting time. In that case, your employer is not obligated to pay you unless you can prove that you worked during that time.
Sometimes, employers record their employees’ starting and quitting times to the nearest quarter of an hour. That is legally allowed, so long as the system does not, over time, fail to count consequential hours of employment.
How to Clock In and Out for Insignificant Periods of Time
Now that you have a basic understanding of how time clocks work under the FLSA, you may still have a remaining question or two. Take, for example, the issue of insignificant periods of time worked.
If you are required to pop into the workspace to perform a quick task, you may wonder whether you should clock in and out for that time. According to the FLSA, those seconds and moments may be disregarded for payroll purposes, so long as common sense doesn’t dictate otherwise.
Unfortunately, you may have realized that the FLSA leaves several “gray areas” for interpretation. A good rule of thumb is that if you believe your employment agreement is being violated, call an attorney to discuss the situation more fully.