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How to Track Employee Hours & Total Wages

by W D Adkins

Employers must follow the Fair Labor Standards Act and U.S. Department of Labor guidelines when they figure your hours and wages. There is some latitude in the guidelines, so you may want to check procedural details with your payroll department. Even the most conscientious employer can make a mistake, so it’s a good idea to track your own hours and wages.

Time Recording

An employer must provide you with an individual time card, time sheet or the online equivalent so you can see your hours worked at a glance. In addition to the starting and ending times for each shift worked, the time card should list the day, date, and total hours worked. The exact format is optional. The FSLA only requires that the information be complete and accurate.

What Time Counts

In order to accurately track the hours you work, you need to know what counts as paid time. Employers don’t have to include very short periods of time that are difficult to track. For instance, if everybody tries to clock in at once, there will unavoidably be some difference in recorded start times. Time should not be deducted for short breaks of less than 20 minutes. However, your employer can deduct breaks of 30 minutes or more, such as a lunch period. If you voluntarily come to work early or stay late, your employer does not have to pay you unless you are actually working during the extra time.

Figuring Wages

Employers are permitted to round work time off. For example, eight hours and 10 minutes might be rounded to 8.2 hours or 8 1/4 hours, depending on the procedures of your payroll department. The FLSA allows employers to use their discretion here, as long as the method used does not tend to shortchange workers. Once the work week is finished, all you do to calculate wages for time worked up to 40 hours is multiply your hourly pay rate by the total hours worked.

FLSA Overtime Rules

All hourly workers covered under the overtime provisions of the FLSA must be paid at least 1.5 times their regular hourly rate for all time worked in excess of 40 hours per week. Suppose you are paid $15 per hour and work 46 hours one week. Your wages for the first 40 hours are $600. You must be paid 1.5 times $15, or $22.50, for each overtime hour. That comes to $135 in overtime pay, so your wages for the week total $735. Employers are not required to pay overtime when you work on Sunday or on holidays.

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