elaws - FLSA Hours Worked Advisor
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Recording Hours Worked

The FLSA requires employers to keep records on wages, hours worked and other items, as specified in Department of Labor regulations. Most of the information is of the kind generally maintained by employers in ordinary business practice and in compliance with other laws and regulations.

Insignificant Periods of Time

In recording working time under the act, infrequent and insignificant periods of time beyond the scheduled working hours, which cannot as a practical matter be precisely recorded for payroll purposes may be disregarded. The courts have held that such periods of time are de minimis (insignificant). This rule applies only where there are uncertain and indefinite periods of time involved, a few seconds or minutes in duration, and where the failure to count such time is justified by industrial realities. As noted below, an employer may not arbitrarily fail to count any part, however small, of working time that can be practically ascertained.

For example, after clocking in you assigned your employee to another job. He or she transported his or her tools to the new job area and then informed your foreman that he or she was ill and went home without doing any additional work or clocking out. The time spent transporting the tools would be considered de minimis or insignificant because it was limited to this one time only.

You must count as hours worked any part, however small, of your employee’s fixed or regular working time or identifiable periods of time he or she is regularly required to spend on duties assigned to him or her.

This policy is one that must be applied with common sense recognizing the practical realities of recording identifiable work time. Setting an artificial time limit is not sufficient. One must consider how frequently the activity is performed and whether the activity is actually part of the work the employee was hired to do.

Use of Time Clocks

Time clocks are not required under the FLSA. In those cases where time clocks are used, if your employee voluntarily comes in before his or her regular starting time or remains after quitting time, he or she does not have to be paid for such periods provided, of course, that your employee does not do any work during this time. Early or late punching is not hours worked when no work is done.

Likewise, minor differences between the clock records and actual hours worked cannot ordinarily be avoided since all employees can not clock in or out at precisely the same time. Major discrepancies should be discouraged, however, since doubt is raised as to the accuracy of the record of hours actually worked.

In some industries, particularly where time clocks are used, there has been the practice for many years of recording the employee’s starting and stopping time to the nearest 5 minutes, or to the nearest one-tenth or quarter of an hour. Presumably, these arrangements average out so all of the time actually worked by the employee is properly counted and the employee is fully compensated for all the time actually worked. Such practices of recording working time are acceptable, provided they do not result, over a period of time, in failure to count as hours worked all the time the employees have actually worked.

To review the regulations regarding insignificant amounts of time or use of time clocks, click on the underlined text.

For more information, please contact your local Wage and Hour District Office.