Timesheets, also sometimes called time cards or time records, are a key component of an average employment arrangement. These documents contain information about when employees have worked so that companies can reimburse them appropriately.
Hourly workers receive varying pay depending on how long they worked during any given pay period. Workers paid on a salary basis usually have less reason to monitor timekeeping records because their paychecks remain the same regardless of how long they are at work in any given week. For hourly workers, time records are how they validate that they have received appropriate pay.
Is it ever legal for a company to go in and change when a worker clocked in and clocked out of their shifts to reduce what they receive in their paychecks?
Some adjustments are legal
Both federal payroll standards and prior court rulings have established the theoretical right of employers to make necessary changes to timekeeping records. For example, if a worker forgets to clock out at the end of a shift, the company can add details to time records showing when they left for the day.
Similarly, businesses can update records to show when workers clocked out for breaks and meals. Essentially, if a worker does not properly use timekeeping software and fails to generate an accurate record of when they actively worked, members of the management, payroll, accounting or human resources departments could theoretically adjust internal records to more accurately reflect when a worker was on the job.
However, it is not legal for companies to alter time records to decrease what they pay workers or avoid overtime wages. Some organizations may even consistently alter payroll records by a few minutes per shift. Small changes often go unnoticed by workers but can add up to massive financial losses for the workers not paid the wages they deserve over many years of employment.
Most workers simply trust that their employers comply with the law and could end up becoming the victims of wage theft as a result. Workers who have reason to suspect that an employer has altered payroll records may need to start keeping personal records of when they clock in and out of each shift. They can then compare those records with their paychecks. If there is a noticeable discrepancy resulting in an underpayment, that worker may have grounds for a wage claim against the company.
Understanding how businesses may try to hide payroll and wage violations can help workers demand the compensation they deserve for the time they have already worked.