Pay question:

Problem: Our Plant Manager wants to cut down on OT by automatically rounding off the time clock to the employee's shift start/finish time. We run three eight hour shifts five days a week in three separate departments, thus about 8-10 employees per department per shift. The three departments start at 7AM, 7:30AM & 8AM so there isn't a large number of employees trying to clock in/out at one time. Employees must be at their work station at the start of their shift to enable the outgoing employees to leave at the end of their shifts.

Question: When using a time clock, do we have to pay employees for the time it takes them to get to their departments from the clock and from their departments to the clock? I think we do, but can't find it in writing.

In our situation it's about a 2-4 minute walk between the clock & each department. That's about 21 hours of OT per employee per year for about 100 employees. At an average salary of $12/hr that's almost $40,000 of nonproduction OT per year (21 X 10 X $18) for a relatively small company. I do understand the OT cost is not relevant to the question, but is mentioned to show the problem we face.

Note, all time clock data is wirelessly transmitted to my computer and due to our facility layout, we can not install time clocks in each department.


  • 14 Comments sorted by Votes Date Added
  • Since no one has answered you yet, I'll take a stab at it.

    This is the best I could find on the matter. Fortunately most of my ee's (all but 4) are salaried.


    There was a case that was decided back in the 40's about the time spent walking to a job after clocking in but I'm not sure if it is has been revisited by the Supreme Court.

    Anderson v. Mt.Clemens Pottery Co., 328 U.S. 680 (1946) (the “Walking Time” case)

    Good luck. I'm sure someone with more knowledge than I have will chime in!

  • [font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 08-26-08 AT 04:06PM (CST)[/font][br][br][font size="1" color="#FF0000"]LAST EDITED ON 08-26-08 AT 04:04 PM (CST)[/font]

    They aren't free to do anything else between the time they clock in and hit the job, or between the time they leave the line and clock out, I presume. That alone tells me you'd better pay them, although the site linked above seems to counter that maybe.

    On the other hand, I would question the assertion that you can't put time clocks elsewhere. Unless your employees are working underwater, there's a way. There's probably a way even if they ARE working underwater. Tell you what - Give me the $40,000, and I'll do it. The first year is a wash, the savings after that go directly to your bottom line. :)

  • Thank you all for answering my question.

    My "going in" position was the same as Frank's, i.e., I thought we had to pay from timeclock to work station. However, after reading through the website that Skoshi posted (29 CFR 785.34 - Effect of section 4 of the Portal-to-Portal Act.), I was able to find the following, "Thus traveltime at the commencement or cessation of the workday which was originally considered as working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (such as underground travel in mines or walking from time clock to work-bench) need not be
    counted as working time unless it is compensable by contract, custom or

    As convoluted as it is, I will use this Federal Reg as documentation that we do not have to pay for timeclock to work station time. I have included the entire subsection of the reg at the bottom of this posting.

    Thanks again to Skoshi, Frank, NaeNae, & Potato for taking the time to help me with this issue. Their response is an indication of how valuable this Forum is. Getting an answer to questions like this, helps me justify the annual HR Employment Law Letter fee when it comes time to set my budget.

    In regards to NaeNae's question, our timeclock automatically rounds to the minute, i.e. gives me a decimal equivalent for payroll purposes. I thought all electronic timeclocks did this. I don't spend anytime calculating minutes. I guess I'm luckier than I thought. The system is called "Time Clock Manager" if anyone's interested.


    29 CFR 785.34 - Effect of section 4 of the Portal-to-Portal Act.

    The Portal Act provides in section 4(a) that except as provided in
    subsection (b) no employer shall be liable for the failure to pay the
    minimum wage or overtime compensation for time spent in ``walking,
    riding, or traveling to and from the actual place of performance of the
    principal activity or activities which such employee is employed to
    perform either prior to the time on any particular workday at which such
    employee commences, or subsequent to the time on any particular workday
    at which he ceases, such principal activity or activities.'' Subsection
    (b) provides that the employer shall not be relieved from liability if
    the activity is compensable by express contract or by custom or practice
    not inconsistent with an express contract. Thus traveltime at the
    commencement or cessation of the workday which was originally considered
    as working time under the Fair Labor Standards Act (such as underground
    travel in mines or walking from time clock to work-bench) need not be
    counted as working time unless it is compensable by contract, custom or
    practice. If compensable by express contract or by custom or practice
    not inconsistent with an express contract, such traveltime must be
    counted in computing hours worked. However, ordinary travel from home to
    work (see Sec. 785.35) need not be counted as hours worked even if the
    employer agrees to pay for it. (See Tennessee Coal, Iron & RR. Co. v.
    Musecoda Local, 321 U.S. 590 (1946); Anderson v. Mt. Clemens Pottery
    Co., 328 U.S. 690 (1946); Walling v. Anaconda Copper Mining Co., 66 F.
    Supp. 913 (D. Mont. (1946).)

  • You're welcome Rita,
    That was my take on the reg as well, but I am hesitant to give definites (I should have been a lawyer instead!).
    I worked at a large overnight shipper and we had to be in our cubes, with computers up and all windows open, ready to go at 8. Getting everything up and running could take up to 10 minutes and we were not paid until we actually started 'working', at 8.
    Good luck! x:-)
  • I have been trying and trying to remember a case I read about this year, but my mind just won't click into that gear. It had to do with traveling to the worksite. In that case, the employees were scientists or specialized technicians or something. They worked at a secure place and so had to come in and then ride a bus to the secure worksite. They sued to be paid for the bus time, but the courts ruled against them. Wish I could remember more. Sorry.

  • There was a case at Miami International Airport where construction workers had to ride a bus to a job site that was within a secured area of the airport (Bonilla v. Baker Concrete Construction (May 30, 2007).

    Not sure that 's the case, but the issue in Bonilla is an employer-provided bus ride from a common point, through airport security, to the work site. Because of the security check point, the ride could get long. Employees challenged that their time on the bus ride should have been compensable work time. The court found for the employer because the security check point was required by a third party not affiliated with the employer and the construction workers were not required to perform any work or carry supplies, tools, PPE, etc on the bus.

  • Do you actually pay for every minute? Are you unionized?

    I ask because we always do the 7 minute rule (7 minutes before or after start time is rounded to the start time, 8 minutes turns into 15 minutes of overtime or 15 minutes PTO for being late). It really saves a lot on those couple of minutes here-couple of minutes there issues. I can't imagine how annoying it must be to calculate a 2-4 minutes on people every day.

    Did my imaginiation run away with me here?
  • We calculate to the minute. At least, until next Tuesday. Then we go to 3 minutes before, 3 minutes after. I'm dreading it.
  • Most recently a similiar question was answered when the question of "donning & doffing" (sp?) uniforms was compensable. It was decided that since this was a requirement of the job, you had to pay a reasonable amount of time for that action BUT walking to and from a timeclock is not compensable.

    You are in a great position because your start and stop times are exactly the same every day and from your post it seems that your equipment stops at those exact times so no additional work could be done on your behalf? Keep records of your employees actual punches but you would only be required to pay for the actual time worked and that does not include walking to a clock!

    Please....don't anyone tell me this is wrong or I will have to replace myself!!!

  • You might wish to ask Oscar Mayer this question:

    Workers Sue Oscar Mayer Over Unpaid Work Hours
    Four employees at Kraft’s Oscar Mayer meat processing plant in Madison filed a class action lawsuit in the federal court May 30 alleging violations of federal and state laws requiring payment for time spent changing into and out of personal protective equipment and walking to their workstations.

    Jason Knudtson, Jeff Spoerle, Nick Lee, and Kathi Smith claim that Kraft requires them to put on personal protective equipment such as footwear, smocks, and headgear and walk to their workstations before they are permitted to punch a time clock and begin to be paid. After they are done working, they must also punch out before they walk back to a locker room where they remove the personal protective equipment.

    They allege that approximately 1,500 other production and maintenance employees represented by UFCW Local 538 who work at the plant have also been denied their pay. The employees are seeking damages including lost pay, overtime pay, and statutory penalties doubling these amounts, which they estimate total in the millions of dollars.

    “We are sick and tired of being forced to work off the clock for Kraft,” said Knudtson. “We just want to get paid for the work we do.”

    “This case is one of many being filed after a recent ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court that employees must be paid for time spent putting on and taking off personal protective equipment and walking to and from their workstations,” said Kurt Kobelt, the attorney from Lawton & Cates who represents the employees.

    Might want to check it out.


  • I think in this case the difference is that they had to put on protective gear.

    I think our original poster may be ok with her 3 minute rule since it works both ways. If the employee is 2 minutes late they cannot be docked, and if they arrive 2 minutes early they cannot be paid extra. The courts usually frown on things that work only for the employer, but they are usually ok with things that work both ways.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • It also specifically states walking to and from workstations on the bottom of the article.

    Also Walmart was recently just in a similar situation and they do not don protective gear.

  • I think the Kraft case is because of the PPE requirement in a work environment that probably (hopefully) requires a fairly sterile food prep setting. That would be different than a setting where no PPE, changing of clothes, exposures to hazardous materials or work in a sterile environment that requires pre-/post-work day showers.

  • The more I read and research this the more gray it becomes.

    The portal to portal act covers before the employee checks in if they have to walk to the plant or building or department to check in it is not paid time.

    However one could argue that after checking in the day has started and now it is paid time because they are now on the clock.

    This, the Court concluded that any activity that is "integral and indispensable" to a principal activity is a principal activity itself under the Portal-to-Portal Act. Further, during a continuous workday, any time spent walking after the employees' begin their first principal activity and before they complete their last principal activity is excluded from the Portal-to-Portal Act, and, accordingly, is compensable under FLSA. Id. at 15, 17.

    I think this debate will go on longer than I care to think about it.

    We use the 15 minute rounding rule. 6 minutes rounds up and 7 minutes rounds down. That gives the employees 6 minutes from the time they check in, if it takes them 7 it will round down.

    Our employees all check in on thier computers so they are at their desks already. The computer check in system is what we use for the timeclock. It is called Unitime.


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