Is it Legal for Employers to Round My Time in San Diego?

Hourly employees in California must be paid at least minimum wage for all hours worked according to California Labor Code §204. The minimum wage for non-exempt employees within the city limits of San Diego is $15 per hour as of January 1, 2022. The minimum wage applies regardless of the number of employees. 

If you punch into work at 7:57 a.m., you should be paid beginning at three minutes until the hour until you clock out of work. However, many employers round their employees’ time. Instead of paying an employee beginning at 7:57 a.m., the employer rounds the time to begin at 8:00 a.m. 

Unfortunately, rounding time can result in wage and hour disputes in San Diego.

What is Rounding Time?

“Rounding” occurs when an employer adjusts a worker’s hours either up or down to the nearest increment. The increment might be rounding to the tenth of an hour, the quarter-hour, or five minutes. Unfortunately, rounding can result in an employee being overpaid or underpaid for the work period. 

California permits employers to round time. However, an employer’s rounding policy must:

  • Neutral and fair on its face; AND,
  • Applied so that it does not consistently result in underpayment to employees.

If the rounding policy routinely results in employees receiving less money than they would receive without rounding, it is unlawful. For example, a policy that consistently results in an employee’s overall hours worked being rounded down would not be upheld in court.

The policy must be clearly articulated before the employer implements it, and the policy must be applied consistently to all employees. For example, an employer that changes rounding policies based on the season could be viewed as using rounding policies to underpay employees during peak working times.

California also allows employers to use grace periods as part of their rounding policy. During a grace period, the employee may clock in early or late, but the employer only pays the employee for hours scheduled for the regular shift.

For example, your shift begins at 7:00 a.m., and you clock in at 6:50 a.m. You are not paid for the ten minutes you are at work early because the employer has a 15-minute grace period. 

Let’s say you stop by your locker after work, so you clock out five minutes after the shift ends. In this situation, you are not paid for those five minutes because of the grace period. 

For the grace period to be legal, the following requirements must apply:

  • You are not required to perform any work during the grace period;
  • You do not perform any work during the grace period; and,
  • Your employer does not exercise any control over you during the grace period.

Grace periods allow for delays in clocking in or out when the employee is not actually working. However, it must be clear that the employer is not in control of the employee during that time, and the employee does not perform any work during the grace period. Otherwise, the employer must pay the employee for the time worked during the grace period.

What Happens When Rounding or a Grace Periods Results in Underpayment of Wages?

If your employer uses rounding or grace periods to avoid paying your wages, you have a few options. First, you can file a complaint with your employer requesting a review of your pay. Your employer should have a policy for employees to resolve pay disputes.

You can also talk to an employment law attorney. An attorney can discuss your options for filing a lawsuit or a wage claim with the appropriate government agency. 

Depending on the facts of your case, you could receive damages for a wage dispute that include:

  • The amount in wages your employer did not pay you
  • Interest on top of the unpaid wages
  • Reimbursement for reasonable attorneys’ fees for pursuing a wage claim

The state may penalize your employer for violating California wage and hour laws in some cases. Therefore, you could receive additional compensation from civil penalties, depending on the laws your employer violated. In addition, if your employer’s rounding policy or grace policy is unlawful, a class-action lawsuit might be filed on behalf of all employees impacted by the illegal policy. 

Contact an Attorney for Assistance

A San Diego wage and hour disputes lawyer can help you with all types of wage disputes, including unpaid vacation time, paid leave disputes, wage deductions, tip pooling, and sick time. Never hesitate to seek legal advice whenever you believe your employer violates your employee rights in California. 

To learn more, call our San Diego law firm at (619) 693-7727 or contact us online.