Show Up Early, So You Won’t Be Late to Work

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Wisconsin called me the other day to revise his out-of-date Employee Handbook. One of the standard chapters in an Employee Handbook is Compensation and Timekeeping, which addresses topics like timesheets, paydays, and overtime. Within that topic discussion, I asked the owner when the payroll period begins and ends, which is necessary to determine potential overtime wages. The owner answered, 12:01 a.m. on Sunday (i.e., Saturday night) to midnight on the following Saturday. Easily done.

From that clarification, I then asked within that weekly pay period, when do the field employees normally start their daily work shifts. The owner replied that field employees normally work from 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. But, he added, because so many employees show up late to work every day, usually between 7:00 a.m. and 7:15 a.m., he now tells his employees to be at work by 6:50 a.m. so they will then be ready to leave the yard at 7:00 a.m.

I promptly told the owner that if he is requiring non-exempt field employees to be at work by 6:50 a.m. each day, and if they show up at that time, that is the beginning of their workday, not 7:00 a.m. He told me that they are not doing any work from 6:50 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. and as such should not be paid for those 10 minutes each day. While partially correct, I then told the owner that since he is requiring them to be at work by 6:50 a.m., and if they show up, they are technically “under his control” for those 10 minutes, which means he must compensate them for that time. Non-payment of that time violates both the Fair Labor Standards Act and Wisconsin’s wage and hour laws.

With that fact in mind, I suggested that the owner return the daily start time to 7:00 a.m. and begin to document those employees who report to work late. That action is completely legal, while not paying non-exempt employees for controlled time suggests non-compliance with wage and hour laws.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.