Workplace Time Clock Rules

Employers and workers enter into a contract every time someone is hired. The employee agrees to perform a service as stated in the job description, and the employer agrees to provide compensation in the form of a paycheck. Many workers are paid by the hour, which means that employers need to provide some means of recording attendance. Time clocks include computer systems with keypads, card swipe devices and old-fashioned stamping machines, but all serve the same general purpose.

Mandatory Use

A time clock only serves its purpose when every employee who earns an hourly wage uses it for each shift. Inconsistencies in use result in a complex system of time cards or time clock printouts, time sheets filled out manually and other informal records that indicate who worked and for how long. Employers should only alter time clock information in limited instances; once an employee is established with the business, she can be held liable for time she did not document and may not receive full pay for that time.


State labor divisions spell out the rules for employers rounding workers' recorded time to compute payment. For example, in Taxes a law known as the de minimis rule allows employers to disregard "insubstantial or insignificant periods of time beyond the scheduled working hours." The same law, however, states that the amount of time disregarded cannot amount to more than a few seconds or minutes. Beyond these provisions, employers are required by law to pay employees according to the times recorded on a time clock.

Business Policies

Each business is responsible for informing its employees as to proper time clock use and policies. This may involve not allowing employees to punch in more than five minutes before a scheduled shift. Any form of tampering with the time clock or forging false time cards qualifies as theft and may lead to criminal prosecution. Workers who punch someone else's card or enter a coworker's time code are subject to dismissal or other disciplinary action.

Dealing With Problems

Even the most reliable time clock can break down or fail to record hours properly due to a time change, power outage or mechanical failure. To deal with time clock problems, employers need to have a back-up system in place. Each employee should know what to do if there is a time clock failure, whether it's filling in a time sheet manually or speaking to a supervisor at the beginning and end of each shift to record attendance.