Is Your Employer Cheating You On The Time Clock? Clue #3: Changing Time Records

Please read Clue #1 first.  This clue does not repeat the situations illustrating the differences that arise because of pay rates close to the minimum wage, or the differences between overtime/and no-overtime claims.

Clue #3.  You punch a time clock, and your time is captured by a computer that calculates your hours and your pay.  However, you think you worked longer hours than the company’s time records show.

One Important Fact:  It is a crime under Federal law, and under many State laws, to alter an employee’s time records to deprive the employee of the pay to which he or she is entitled.

Another Important Fact: It is perfectly legal for employers to “round up” and “round down” time on time clocks if they do so in a neutral manner, benefiting the employee sometimes and the employer sometimes, and by similar but small amounts.

  • Example 1: Helen routinely clocks in and starts work at 7:58 A.M. and ends work and clocks out at 4:57 P.M., and the employer routinely captures the time as clocking in at 8:00 and out at 5:00.  This is perfectly proper, because the rounding is neutral as between employer and employee.
  • Example 2: Tom routinely clocks in and starts work at 7:40 A.M. and ends work and clocks out at 5:15 P.M., and the employer routinely captures the time as clocking in at 8:00 and out at 5:00.  This is unlawful, because the employer’s rounding is only to benefit the employer, and these are large amounts of time.

What to Do?  Get a small spiral-bound notebook, of the type making it impossible to insert pages.  Start making a record of your time, but only do it when you are not at work, and cannot be seen by the employer.  Jot down your starting time on the time clock and your watch on a scrap of paper, and do the same when you clock out for a meal, clock back in from the meal, and leave at the end of the day.  At home, transfer the information into the spiral notebook, with the full date (month, day and year), and calculate your hours and minutes.  Do it for a week, total it, and see what the paycheck shows.

If the computer timekeeping software has been rigged to cheat, you should notice it fairly soon.

If a manager is going in and changing time records for this employee this day, and another the next, you will need to keep recording your time for a substantial period.  Many cheating schemes spread out the pain over employees so that each is “hit” only once every five or six weeks.

Keep the records.  If they show something wrong, keep at it, and encourage others to do the same.  Then contact a lawyer you trust.  Never throw the records away unless you’re persuaded the employer is innocent.

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