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Falsifying time cards

We have a store manager that was clocking out an employee after the employee left work early because he stated that the employee was working through his lunch hour. What is the penalty for this misconduct? Your help is greatly needed to show explanation to the store manager and the employee, who has been complaining that his paycheck is short. Help…

Thank You!

 Check your employee handbook but usually a manager or any employee who falsifies payroll records or time cards is guilty of willful misconduct or gross misconduct. At most companies, this results in immediate termination. By changing the time card to show that this employee was working when he or she had gone home, the manager was guilty of stealing money from the company in the form of payroll dollars for this employee.

The federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act requires that the employer keep accurate records of all times worked, hours worked and wages paid. By falsifying payroll records and time cards, your manager put the company in the position of violating this federal law. Most employers have a zero-tolerance policy for a manager or any employee in this situation. Some companies might suspend the manager for 3 to 7 days without pay, instead of terminating the manager, but there is no law that you must do so. Many employers would choose to make an example of this manager, to send the clear message that falsifying company documents is unacceptable.

At most companies, the manager would be responsible for making sure that the employee took his or her unpaid meal break in accordance with company policy. If it was impossible for the employee to take a break, the manager could have altered the time card to show that the employee did not take a meal break and was therefore entitled to payment for that time. That is very different from claiming that the employee was at work when he or she was actually driving home, or having a beer at the nearest bar.

An employee who skips his or her meal break is entitled to payment for that time. The employee is not necessarily entitled to leave work early that day. Suppose Todd is scheduled to work 8 am to 4:30 pm with a 30-minute unpaid meal break — a total of 8 hours. If Todd works through his meal break on Tuesday, he is entitled to payment for that time, but he is not entitled to go home early that day. Todd works from 8 am to 4:30 pm and is entitled to payment for 8.5 hours that day. Todd may be sent home early on another day to compensate, or he may be paid overtime. However, in every case his time card should always accurately reflect the hours and times that Todd actually worked.

So the manager was willfully negligent in 3 different duties: 1) Ensuring that employees took meal breaks as required by company policy 2) Ensuring that employees worked their scheduled shift, rather than leaving early 3) Falsifying payroll records and time cards to conceal the manager's negligance in the other two areas.

The consequences for the employee are more of a grey area. If the employee knew that his time card was being falsified, many employee handbooks would require that he report that to HR or upper management. Failure to do so would result in immediate termination. This is particularly true if the employee signed off on a time card, work sheet or payroll form that was inaccurate. (An alternate punishment would be unpaid suspension for 3 to 7 days, but there is no law that you must be that lenient.)

It may be that the employee was aware of the changes to his time card, but believed that they were within company policy. This is reasonable given that he had his managers permission for these schedule changes. In that case, it might be more appropriate to issue one or more written reprimands to the employee for not following the company break policy, and time card policy, rather than to terminate him or her.

If the employee was unaware that the manager was changing the time card, and believed that he or she had the manager's permission to work this different schedule, then you could let the employee off with a warning.

You should also review payroll records to ensure that this employee was accurately paid for all the time he or she worked, including overtime if necessary. As an employer, you are responsible for paying workers accurately, even when your managers misbehave.

This is a complex issue so feel free to post comments or additional questions.


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This entry was posted on Thursday, December 30th, 2010 at 11:05 am and is filed under
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8 Responses to “Falsifying time cards”

  1. » Falsifying time cards Human Resource Blog « Human Resources 123 Says:

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  3. Terri Says:

    If I have worked hours and then once they are turned in, can a manager legally change my hours to reflect less hours? I work in an office and have worked my hours. My timecard reflected 80 hours but when I checked it on Monday, my hours had been reduced. I worked the hours so how can my manager be changing them?

  4. Caitlin Says:

    Hi Terri! You are correct — if you worked the time, you are entitled to payment for it. It is not legal for an employer to pay you for fewer hours than you actually worked, if you are an hourly employee. The federal FLSA or Fair Labor Standards Act requires that an employee be paid for all time worked. There are no exceptions. Even if an employee works without permission, if she works she is entitled to payment for that time. (Many states also have minimum wage laws that require the employer to pay employees for all hours worked.)
    The situation would be different if you were clocking in and then not working. However, if you actually worked that time, you are entitled to payment for it. Even if the manager only has a certain number of hours in the budget, if you worked more, you must be paid.Start keeping your own written record of the times you work each day on a small pocket calendar.
    You should approach your manager respectfully and point out that your time card is now incorrect. If you are not successful, speak to HR, your managers supervisor or the owner of the company. If that does not work, file a wage complaint with your state department of labor or with the U.S. Department of Labor at You should be polite and respectful at all times, but you have the right to be paid. HTH, and thanks for reading the blogs!~Caitlin

  5. Karin Trejo Says:

    Question………..there’s a manager that has changed an employees time card to show that this person did take a lunch when actually this poor person worked straight through without a lunch. Now it was just discovered that lunches were added and hours taken so it doesn’t look like any overtime is owed! This is all on a automated time card machine. How can they prove that it was tampered with! There are others that are willing to testify that no lunches are ever taken when this person works. A call has been sent out to the district manager but no response as of now. It’s been a day since it was discovered. What is the best thing to do and how does someone approach this situation let alone prove it. Please help! I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time


    K. T

  6. hrlady Says:

    Adjusting an employee’s timecard to show he took a lunch break which was never actually taken is falsification of payroll records. As mentioned above the federal FLSA requires employers to maintain accurate records of employees’ hours worked and wages paid as well as pay non-exempt employees for each hour worked. Thus, the manager is violating federal law and most likely company policy. Such misconduct can be proven by the employee stating he never took the lunch break, witnesses stating he never took the lunch break, and showing that work was done during the time the supposed lunch break took place via emails sent, phone calls taken, or other means proving work was accomplished. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure this situation is investigated and resolved. Thus, the appropriate people must be made aware of it. Call the District Manager again. If your calls continue to go unanswered call that person’s manager, all the way up to the CEO/President if you have to.

  7. Jean Morris Says:

    If the employee is found to have clocked out and continues to work off the clock is this considered falsification of Time Card?

  8. hrlady Says:

    Hi Jean, Yes, providing any wrong information on a timecard is technically considered timecard fraud. The more important issue is why an employee clocked out but continued to work. As stated above, the FLSA requires employers to maintain certain records on non-exempt employees including the exact number of hours worked daily and each workweek. Furthermore, the FLSA mandates that non-exempt employees be paid for each and every hour worked. Working off the clock is unlawful and places the company at risk for willful FLSA violations.

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