Earlier last month, the California Supreme Court denied petitions to review and depublish the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth District’s decision in See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court, 210 Cal. App. 4th 889 (2012), a case of first impression on whether an employer can round an employee’s clocked time under California law. As a result, the Court of Appeal’s decision on the topic of employers’ rounding of employee time entries remains the law of the land in California.
On October 29, 2012, the California Court of Appeal confirmed that California law—like federal law—permits an employer to implement a policy rounding its employees’ recorded time so long as the policy is neutrally applied and does not systematically under-compensate employees for time worked.
The plaintiff in See’s Candy hoped to blunt this helpful precedent by asking the California Supreme Court to depublish the Court of Appeal’s ruling. However, thanks to the Supreme Court’s denial of the plaintiff’s petitions, employers and courts may continue to look to See’s Candy for guidance in the implementation of their timekeeping policies.
Many employers systematically round employee time punches to the nearest tenth of an hour. For example, if an employee clocks in at 9:58 a.m., the time is rounded up to 10:00 a.m.; and likewise if she clocks in at 10:02 a.m., her time is rounded down to 10:00 a.m. Under federal law, rounding policies are lawful if they are neutrally applied and do not systematically under compensate employees. While this standard was approved by the California Division of Labor Standards and Enforcement, until recently, no California court or statute specifically addressed the issue.
However, on October 29, 2012, the California Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District in See’s Candy Shops, Inc. v. Superior Court confirmed that the neutral rounding standard adopted by federal law and the Department of Labor Standards and Enforcement is appropriate under California law. Thus, under See’s Candy, California employers may maintain lawful rounding policies if the rounding does not consistently result in a failure to pay employees for time worked. An example of a potentially unlawful rounding policy is one in which the employer always rounds time down.
Also of note, in approving the federal rounding standard, the See’s Candy opinion rejected the plaintiff’s reliance on California Labor Code section 204. Specifically, the court emphasized that Section 204 is solely a timing requirement as to when wages must be paid, and does not create any substantive right to wages.
You can read the decision here.