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Rounding time-sheets OK, labor commissioner says

John Seelmeyer
jseelmeyer@nnbw.biz

Removing an irritant to human resources departments across the state, Nevada Labor Commissioner Thoran Towler says it’s OK to round off the time sheets of hourly workers.

The advisory opinion from the state official means that Nevada’s rules now match up with federal regulations.

The issue was sufficiently annoying to employers that Towler was greeted with big applause from ordinarily reserved human resources professionals at a workshop sponsored by the Nevada Association of Employers in Reno last week.

Before Towler issued his opinion, most employers believed that hourly workers in the state needed to be paid to the minute for the time showed on their time cards.

Among the headaches that caused: At some employers such as casinos, there’s a long line of workers waiting to clock in when they start their shift. Those first in line might clock in at 7:57; those at the end of the line might clock in at 8:02.

Towler said it’s now OK for employers to say that all of them started work at 8.

“You can round, so long as it evens out over time,” the labor commissioner explained.

Federal law allows employers to round off the time worked by hourly employees to the nearest five minutes, the nearest 10th of an hour or the nearest quarter hour.

Employers in neighboring states such as California and Arizona already are rounding off time sheets under state rules that follow the federal law.

Historically, Towler said, employers in northern Nevada appear to have been rounding timesheets fairly commonly, but employers in southern Nevada adhered strictly to the pay-for-every-minute rule.

State law says that employees must be paid for the time worked, and former Labor Commissioner Michael Tancheck was shot down by the Nevada Attorney General’s office when he suggested in 2007 that rounding would be allowed.

With the strong backing of the Nevada Association of Employers, Towler supported legislation that would change the law. But the proposal went nowhere during this year’s session.

Instead, the labor commissioner issued an advisory opinion in which he noted that state law is unclear, but rounding appears to be allowable so long as it doesn’t stiff employees for time that they work.

So long as rounding balances out over time, he said it appears to fall within the intent of state law.

“Labor law is black and white,” Towler said last week. “But the world is a gray place.”