This is more of a thought experiment more than anything else. But let's say for argument's sake that a client had a contract in place with a worker for 100/hr. And also for argument's sake, the worker is a bit cheeky and decides to charge the client for work down to the level of seconds. The worker also has verifiable logs of every second work.

If the worker charged for 1hr 12 min 39 seconds, and the client refused to pay for more than the hour, what would happen? Would the judge simply throw it out? Is there some merit to the hypothetical worker's case?

EDIT: Answer for the US Jurisdiction for which you are most familiar

  • 1
    What jurisdiction? Labor law varies around the world. Mar 30, 2019 at 19:37
  • Employees do not charge their employers; labor laws regard employees and employers, not customers and contractors. Do you want to make this about lawyers charging clients, to keep from mixing labor and contract law?
    – user6726
    Mar 30, 2019 at 19:54
  • @NateEldredge Are there situations in which would be different depending on US Jurisdiction? I don't ask to be rude, I assumed something like this would be rather universal. Either way I edited the question Mar 30, 2019 at 20:07
  • Well, you didn't even say US in the original version. I don't know for sure, but I could well imagine this question might have different answers in France or China or Brazil. Mar 30, 2019 at 20:16
  • 1
    No worries, but thanks for clarifying the question. In the future you can also include a tag for the relevant jurisdiction. I have added united-states here. Mar 30, 2019 at 20:21

2 Answers 2


If this is a client - contractor relationship, it depends on the contract. Attorneys may bill on a quarter-hour basis, or a 10th-hour basis. A 1 minute phone call under a quarter hour billing basis is more expensive than under a 10th-hour basis, all other things being equal (i.e. the hourly rare). So if I hire an attorney to do something and he bills me for 1 hr 6 minutes because he spent 1 hr 4 minutes to do it, he can do that, and I can't object that he didn't spend a full second hour on the task. It just comes down to what the client and contractor agreed to, and if a contractor wants to bill by the second, he can.

For employers and their employees, the Fair Labor Standards Act applies in the US (there are state analogs which mostly say the same thing). The employer is responsible for paying employees based on work done, so they have to keep records. Department of Labor rules allow an employer to simplify record keeping, for example they can round employee hours (1 hr 2 minutes is the same as 55 minutes) – you have to be consistent. They explicitly allow 5 minute granularity, and don't disallow granularity to the second.

  • It sounds like the question here is what happens if the client and contractor did not specify in their contract how fractional hours should be billed. Mar 30, 2019 at 21:30
  • Maybe he can clarify.
    – user6726
    Mar 30, 2019 at 21:34
  • @user6726 Nate is right, sorry for not making that clear. Still a bit of a noob when it comes to law questions Mar 30, 2019 at 23:06

Assuming that this is a contractor relationship, not en employee/employer relationship, the contract would control. If the contract fails to specify, then "usual and customary" practice in the industry or type of contract would control. As mentioned in a comment, many lawyers bill in 1/4 hr or 1/10th hr increments, so it would be acceptable to use either of those. In some other fields, billing is typically by the 1/2 hr or hour, and in some by the day. Note that in most fields overage allows for billing the next increment, so if the contractor worked 1hr 12 min 39 seconds billed on an hourly basis, the bill could legitimately be for 2 hours, not 1.

In the case of an employment relationship, I have nothing to add to the answer by @user6726.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .