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Human Resources

Employee Time Tracking: Keeping Tabs on Hours and Breaks

Christine Batten, PHR
by Christine Batten, PHR on May 9, 2017

Group DiscussionWage and hour issues are some of the most common obstacles for employers. Therefore, when tracking hours worked for non-exempt employees, employers must ensure the minimum wage and overtime provisions are met (regardless of how the employees’ pay is determined). Employers are permitted to track the hours worked for salary-exempt employees, however since their pay is not based on the number of hours they work, it is not required.

Tracking Hours

The most reliable way for tracking time is to use a time clock system (whether it’s physical or electronic is up to the employer). If employees don’t have access to a physical time clock or computer, have them record their time manually on a time sheet. Make sure both the employee and manager/supervisor sign it at the end of every pay period. Employees should record when they begin and end work and include any time they take an unpaid meal break.

Employee Breaks

When managing non-exempt employees, employers should make sure to monitor systems that automatically deduct lunch breaks. Problems can arise when employees don’t take the break that’s already been subtracted or continue to work while eating. If an employee takes a work call or answers an email during a break, it’s considered interrupted and must then be paid.

Federal law does not require employers to offer meal or rest breaks to their employees. However, when employers do offer short breaks (20 minutes or less); the law considers the breaks as compensable work hours. Breaks that last longer than 20 minutes can be unpaid. If employers require employees to take unpaid breaks, but an employee chooses not to, the employer still has to pay the employee for the hours he or she worked. However, the employer may choose to discipline the employee for violating a company policy by not taking a break, if such a policy exists. Some states require employees be given breaks so be sure to double check your state’s laws.

Child Labor

When it comes to hiring minors, there are specific state rules employers must follow, especially when it comes to the child’s work schedule. Minors are subject to restrictions on when and how long they can work, as well as the type of work they can perform. The exact restrictions depend on the minor’s age. While meal breaks are not a federal requirement for workers of any age, the state of Florida for example, requires minors not work more than four consecutive hours without a 30-minute uninterrupted break (paid or unpaid). 

According to the law, the time-keeping requirement is the responsibility of the employer – not the employee. While it’s important to have clear policies regarding how employees track their time, employers may not withhold their pay if they fail to do so properly. If an employee fails to submit timesheets “on time,” the best practice is to pay them based on what they were scheduled to ensure timely payment of wages, then make any adjustments the following pay period. The requisite timing of payment varies from state to state, but it is always prudent to issue pay to employees to avoid allegations that you are withholding their pay.

If you have questions on exempt and non-exempt employee time tracking or are interested in ways FrankCrum can help you with wage and hour questions, please contact us.

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Christine Batten, PHR
Christine Batten, PHR

Christine has over 20 years of HR related experience with a background in labor and employment law.