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Ask HR: When Do I Have to Clock-In and Clock-Out?

We’re relaunching our Ask HR series to bring you answers to your pressing HR, workplace culture, benefits, compliance, and payroll questions!

We shared your hard-hitting questions with our team of all-star HR professionals who bring years of industry knowledge to the table. This week’s submission has been masterfully addressed by Namely’s Learning Manager, Ryan MacPherson.

Have an Ask HR question of your own? Email us at ask@namely.com or fill out the form at the bottom of this page!

Without further ado, here’s this week’s Ask HR submission: 

"I'm an hourly employee and ran out for 10 minutes, while on the clock, to pick up lunch, which I then ate while I worked at my desk. My manager asked if I had brought lunch with me and when I said I had briefly stepped out of the office, she told me she will have to clock me out for 30 minutes. When I pushed back, she conferred with upper management and said she will have to clock me out for just the 10 minutes I was away. She told me that the company is held liable for me while I'm on the clock and so I need to stay in the building while on breaks or clocked in.

A month later, she asked another hourly employee to pick her up from the car dealership. That employee and I were supposed to start work at 7 a.m., but the other employee didn’t show up until 7:40 a.m. that morning. A few days later, I overheard my manager tell the employee she'll adjust her clock-in time to 7 a.m. on the day she showed up to work late.

I feel that this is unfair treatment and am trying to understand why my situation would differ from the personal errand/favor the other employee was off-site for but is getting paid for her time away. Should I report this to upper management?
Mary, Michigan

Ryan MacPherson: I really see two issues here: a) the issue of accurate time tracking and
b) potential unfair treatment. We’ll start by looking at the first issue, as it likely informs the second.

As it pertains to the time-tracking, any employee that works for 6 or more hours in a single shift should generally be provided a 30-minute lunch break (under NY state law) and that time can be unpaid if it lasts 30 minutes or more. Given that you stepped out to pick up lunch, your employer was legally correct in saying you should register that you clocked out, even if for just 10 minutes. It may seem silly for such a small period of time, but it’s also safer for an organization to be 100% accurate when reporting/paying the hours of a non-exempt employee.

The unfair treatment issue is a little more complicated. While all hourly employees should be held to the same standard as it pertains to time tracking, different job responsibilities may dictate that certain things that are non-working hours for you could be considered working hours for another. In this situation, that employee may have some responsibilities similar to a personal assistant, in which case driving your manager to/from the dealership could be considered working hours, particularly if it’s at a time when they are typically in the office. If that employee was late because she was asked to take on that responsibility, I would say that your manager was correct in saying that she’ll back up the start time to 7:00 a.m.—those should be logged as working hours regardless because she was carrying out job duties, even if not in the office.

If this becomes a more regular issue and can’t be explained as a unique one-off as I mentioned above, I encourage you to discuss with your HR team to make sure you are navigating your time tracking correctly. If they find that your manager is doing anything inappropriate, they can have a follow-up conversation to make sure team members are being treated fairly.

Have your own burning HR, payroll, and benefits question? Ask our experts and we’ll answer it on the Namely Blog. Simply email
ask@namely.com or complete the form below for a chance to be featured in our next edition.

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