It’s perfectly normal for employers to find shortcuts that enable simpler, more efficient recordkeeping. That’s why if you’ve ever worked for an hourly wage, you’ve very likely had your work time rounded to the nearest quarter-hour. That’s acceptable under the law.
Nonetheless, certain recordkeeping shortcuts can get businesses in trouble if they leave workers less than fully compensated.
For example, Aramark – a huge provider of food services, facilities and uniforms – was accused by employees of underpaying them as a result of its policy of rounding punch-in and punch-out times to the nearest 15 minutes, while also disciplining workers for clocking in more than five minutes late. The workers said this combination of policies resulted in their being underpaid an average of 30 to 40 minutes per pay period.
Some 3,000 Aramark employees sued the company, and Aramark paid a significant sum to settle the case out of court.
In addition to rounding errors, employers have found themselves in hot water by having workers punch in after they’ve put on mandatory safety equipment and having them punch out before they’ve taken it off. A number of federal courts have ruled that employees must be paid for time spent putting on and taking off mandatory equipment – unless a union agrees otherwise in its contract.
Recently, a federal appeals court in Chicago ruled that even though federal regulations didn’t directly require foundry workers to shower and change clothes before leaving the premises at the end of a shift, workers still had to be paid for the time they spent doing so.