Employers have the burden to record and maintain accurate time records under California law. If the employer knows employees are not properly recording their time, the employer needs to enforce a policy to have employees accurately record their time, even if it requires disciplinary action. In addition, employers need to review their time records to ensure employees are following proper procedures.  Here are five reminders of best practices for time records for California:

1. Ensure the time records are accurate.

It goes without saying that the time records need to be accurate in the time that is being recorded for the employees.  For the employer, this means reviewing the use of electronic time keeping systems.  However, if an employer is relying upon the employee to record their time manually, or in a spreadsheet, these records must be audited to ensure that the employee is being accurate in the time they are recording.  For example, the employer needs to prevent an employee manually recording their start and stop time and the same time every day without any variations.  More information about electronic time records and storage requirements is available here.

2. Storing time records for the required amount of time.

The statute of limitations can reach back four years in wage and hour class actions under California law, and time records will be the primary evidence in most of these cases.  California law requires employers to track start and stop times for hourly, non-exempt employees, and record meal breaks as discussed below.  Employers need to ensure they are keeping these critical records for the amounts of time required under the law, and also long enough to defend against wage and hour claims.

3. Must record all required information.

Employers need to ensure their timekeeping system is recording the required information.  For example, while employers are not required to record 10-minute rest breaks, employers are required to record employee’s meal periods under the IWC Wage Orders (requirement is found section 7 – Records).

4. Maintaining time records in a usable format.

Maintaining records in a form that makes reviewing the records almost impossible is almost equivalent to not maintaining them in the first place. Some thought should be put into how an employer is storing time records and understanding how that data could efficiently be reviewed in the future if needed.  Electronic time records are easiest to analyze given that the data is digital.  However, employers should consider where the records are stored (electronic or paper), and how easy is it to pull information for individual employees, and for all employees, if needed.

5. Tracking employees’ signed waivers, acknowledgments, and time card adjustments.

Just like time records, employers need to consider a system for storing, indexing, and retrieving records related to the employee’s time records, such as any time adjustments, employee signed waivers (more information about meal break waivers is available here), and signed acknowledgments.  Documentation is critical but being able to track and retrieve documents for specific employees or for the workforce over a period of time is just as important.  Employers need to put just as much thought into this aspect as they do in training managers and supervisors to document issues in the first place.