What Are Time Clock Laws in California?

Time clock laws in California

If you’re an employee in California, make sure your employer pays you for your time and lets you rest.

California law takes proper employee compensation and break times seriously.

If an employer violates California time clock laws regarding employee breaks and compensation, they might have to pay damages.

To receive damages for time clock violations, employees need to know their rights and their employers’ obligations. 

California Time Clock Laws Regarding Compensation

California law typically requires your employer to timely and regularly pay you for all your working time.

California timekeeping requirements also obligate your employer to keep detailed records of your payroll history and make them available to you. 

If you inspect your payroll records, you might notice that the amount of time your employer pays you for doesn’t always match the amount of time you actually work.

This is likely because your employer engages in rounding hours. Some employers round the hours or minutes their employees work to simplify payroll calculations.

An employer might round your working time to the nearest minute, six minutes, quarter-hour, or other amount. Your employer might round your hours up or down.

Since time clock rules for hourly employees require that California employers pay for all working time, is hour rounding legal? Rounding hours worked in CA can be legal, but it depends on the details of your situation.

In AHMC Healthcare, Inc. v. Superior Court, the California Court of Appeals decided that an employer’s pay policy that rounded hours worked to the closest quarter-hour were legal since: 

  • The policy was neutral on its face;
  • The policy was neutrally applied; and 
  • The policy didn’t result in systematic undercompensation of employees.

This means that if a rounding policy rounds up and down, is not applied to only reduce employee hours, and doesn’t result in constant undercompensation, it’s probably legal.

Some California wage laws also closely follow federal law. Under federal law, an employer can round down working time lasting seven minutes or less.

This can be disappointing, but the California Court of Appeals indicates that employees should at least break even in a rounding system if they work long enough. 

California Time Clock Laws Regarding Meal Breaks

California law requires that your employer give you a 30-minute, unpaid meal break if you work more than five hours in a workday.

The amount of meal breaks you must receive increases with the amount of hours you work. There are some exceptions to this rule.

You can waive your meal break if you and your employer agree, and you don’t work more than six hours. You can also waive your second meal break in a 10 to 12-hour shift, as long as you and your employer agree.

While there are some exceptions to the meal break rules, they generally apply to hourly and salaried employees alike.

And if your employer doesn’t give you proper, uninterrupted meal breaks, you could have a right to premium pay. 

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What If My Employer Doesn’t Comply with the Time Clock Laws in California?

If your employer denies you proper breaks or pays you according to an unlawful hour-rounding policy, you can file a wage-and-hour claim with the California Department of Industrial Relations.

You have one year to file a complaint if your employer fails to supply you with your payroll records. You have three years to file a complaint if you don’t get paid for all your hours or you don’t receive proper rest and meal breaks.

The time you have to file a complaint can pass quicker than you think. This is why you should contact an attorney as soon as you suspect your employer has violated your rights.

Your attorney can meet your filing deadlines and handle your claim while you tend to your other obligations. 

Contact an Attorney to Claim What You’ve Earned

Contrary to popular belief, you aren’t always at the mercy of your employer. Your employer needs to pay what they owe you and provide the rest times you deserve.

At Ottinger Employment Lawyers, we are dedicated to helping wronged employees assert their rights. We have more than 20 years of experience, and we have helped thousands of employees.

If you’re having trouble with your employer, we hope you’ll reach out. Contact us online or call us at 866-328-0486

Author Photo

Robert Ottinger, Esq.

Robert Ottinger is an employment attorney who focuses on representing executives and employees in employment disputes. Before starting his firm, Robert slugged it out in courtrooms trying cases for the government. Robert served as a Deputy Attorney General for the California Department of Justice in Los Angeles and then as Assistant Attorney General for the New York Attorney General’s Office in Manhattan.

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