Time clocks can be a confounding part of the work experience. While some employers go by a down-to-the-second approach with time clocks, others use rolling time clocks that roll up or down to the hour or quarter hour, depending on when you clock in.

As an employee, it’s important that you know how the time clock functions at work. If you don’t understand it well, you could be cutting your own hours short or giving away some of your time for free.

Your employer is required to keep accurate records of your work hours

Your employer is required by the Fair Labor Standards Act to keep records of the time you’ve spent at work. Interestingly, while they are required to record the time, they are not required to use a specific method of timekeeping.

That means that your employer can use a time clock, have you write down when you arrived on paper, have a timekeeper who tracks your hours or any other kind of method they choose. The Department of Labor believes that any method of tracking time is acceptable so long as it is accurate and complete.

These documents need to be kept in your employer’s possession for at least two years. So, if you have a sudden question about last August’s payroll, there should be no problem pulling up the payments and time clock information.

In addition to tracking your normal hours, your employer is required to record overtime and pay it in accordance with the law. The FLSA requires overtime to be paid at a rate of time and a half once an employee has worked over 40 hours. A business can pay more than this, but it cannot pay less.

Can you receive overtime even if it wasn’t authorized?

Yes, because the FLSA regulations demand overtime payments, even if they’re not approved. Employers should track overtime closely, since it might be more efficient to hire a part-timer or another worker instead of paying overtime to those in the office.

Employees must keep track of their own hours, even if their employer means to do so also

You need to double-check your employer’s actions. As much as everyone would love honesty in the workplace, you need to understand that not every employer is honest, and there is a chance of a mistake happening, too. Track your clock-in or clock-out times in a safe place, like on your phone or in a notebook. Compare them to your paychecks, and discuss discrepancies so you can be paid accurately.