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Lunch break clockings

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  • Lunch break clockings

    In recording lunch break clockings in California, we have an automated system that gives the employees the option of clocking out and in for their 30 minute lunch, or they could just clock out and have the system automatically clocking them back after 30 minutes, without them having to go to the clock. Is this acceptable under the California rules?

  • #2
    lucky007: Is this acceptable under the California rules?

    It is so long as no one files a complaint with the DLSE.

    My point: It is the responsibility of the employer to keep records showing that lunch periods were provided for a full, 30-minutes. It can be more difficult for an employer to prove this if the timekeeping clock automatically punches employees back in after 30 minutes.
    Barry S. Phillips, CPA
    www.BarryPhillips.com

    IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

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    • #3
      California lunch break rules

      Thanks BSP for taking time to reply. I was hoping that because the employee has the option to clock back manually and over-ride the auto-clocking, that we would be covered from a lawsuit. The auto-clocking is for the convience of the employees, who had previously been on an honor system, when they wrote in their time on a card, before we got automated time and attendance.
      Do you still think we are liable for a suit? No employee has ever been denied a full 30 minutes lunch in our facility.

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      • #4
        lucky007: I was hoping that because the employee has the option to clock back manually and over-ride the auto-clocking, that we would be covered from a lawsuit...

        There is no way to fully "cover yourself from a lawsuit" -- all you can do is take steps to limit your exposure to liability. It is my opinion the way to do this from a timekeeping standpoint is to have employees actually clock-in and clock out themselves. It takes much of the the guesswork out of things.

        The fact that your employees have the option to override the 30-minute, automatic default is better (from a company liability standpoint) than if they did not have this option, but my professional advice is the same.

        Bottom Line: There is a reason you make your employees clock-in when they start their shift and clock-out when they end their shift (i.e., you don't follow the "automated" clock-in and clock-out procedures here). I urge you to follow the same procedure at lunch.
        Barry S. Phillips, CPA
        www.BarryPhillips.com

        IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

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        • #5
          California lunch break rules

          Thanks, BSP, for your dissection of the situation. You make a persuasive argument.

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          • #6
            The fact that your employees have the option to override the 30-minute, automatic default is better (from a company liability standpoint) than if they did not have this option, but my professional advice is the same.
            I have to disagree slightly with this opinion, although it doesn't change the legal facts of the OP's case.

            I do agree that it is better to have the employee manually clock in/out. However, in my opinion, if time clocks require a supervisor's override at the time the employee clocks in/out early/late, then the supervisor can immediately address the issue of the employee not taking the appropriate lunch period, as well as working overtime without prior approval. Also, the system can be configured to not allow early "in" or late "outs" without a supervisor's override. Both of these configuration options are payroll/T & A best practices in the industry. Saves questions later on. In BSPCPA's method, the employee could be clocking in and not working, for which he doesn't legally have to be paid, then turn around and claim unpaid wages based on "clock time". Just my $.02 and 28 years experience.
            I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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            • #7
              pattymd: In BSPCPA's method, the employee could be clocking in and not working, for which he doesn't legally have to be paid, then turn around and claim unpaid wages based on "clock time.".

              Huh? If the employee were to make such an argument (i.e., I clocked back in but really wasn't working), it would establish he actually owes a refund to his company for overpaid wages.

              Bottom Line: I'm going with your opening remark: I do agree that it is better to have the employee manually clock in/out"
              Barry S. Phillips, CPA
              www.BarryPhillips.com

              IRS Circular 230 Disclosure: This response is intended to provide general information and written for educational purposes only. It does not establish a client relationship. This communication is not intended to be used, and cannot be used, for the purpose of (i) avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code or (ii) promoting, marketing or recommending to any party any matters addressed herein.

              Comment

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