Time out! Know the 3 legal ways to round time.

The U.S. Labor Department says employers can round employees' time as long as it's done "in a manner that it will not result, over a period of time, in failure to compensate the employees properly for all the time they have actually worked." Bottom line: Rounding must be neutral or favor the employee. (DOL 29 CFR Sec. 785.48(b)) You have several ways to make rounding fair, including:

* Minute-based. For example, say your time clock pays by 15-minute intervals. If an employee punches in at 9:07 a.m., you'd round down his start time to 9:00 a.m. If he punches in at 9:08 a.m., you'd round up the start time to 9:15 a.m. This way, the rounding method will balance out over time.

* Start-stop method. Another option is to round off in the employee's favor at all starting times. Then, at the end of the shift, round off to the employer's favor at all quitting times.

* Playing it safe. Finally, you could choose to always round off to favor the employee. That practice would cost you more, but it would...

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