Managers have a lot of leeway when it comes to supervising their employees' working hours, but they can't deny employees pay for time worked. Also, managers who alter employees' time cards without justification -- whether doing so favors the employee or the company -- can call into question their business principles and integrity. If you suspect that your time card has been altered, compare your hours worked with your paycheck and ask your boss or the payroll department about discrepancies.
Early and tardy arrivals and departures are recorded on your time card, which is then forwarded to the payroll processor. Many employers round up or round down employees' work time for mathematical ease in calculating payroll. Your manager has the right to alter your time card, provided the changes aren't more than a few minutes. For example, if your start time is 8 a.m. and you clock in at 8:03 a.m., your manager will probably change the clock-in time to 8 a.m. Likewise, if you arrive at 8:08 a.m. or 8:13 a.m., your manager might change your clocked-in time to 8:15 a.m.
Chances are, there are times when your manager rounds up and times when she rounds down. There's no real science to the practice, but it evens out over time. Unless you're literally standing beside the time clock waiting for the seconds to pass so you can clock in at precisely 8 a.m., there will be days when you'll miss clocking in right on time or when your job duties keep you a few minutes past your quitting time. If your manager routinely alters your time card so that you're always denied a full 10 minutes here or 15 minutes there, you should ask why because, over the course of a pay period, those quarter-hours can add up to hours of unpaid time.
Under federal law, employers don't have to give meal breaks. Some state laws may require it, such as New York State law that requires a one-hour midday meal break for factory workers. If you get a lunch break, your company doesn't have to pay you for that time off if you're fully relieved from your work duties. Your manager might alter your time card to make your lunch break a paid one if she sees that you are working during your lunch break or if business demand requires that you eat your lunch at your desk. This is a justifiable reason for altering your time card in your favor.
If you're required to use a time card or clock in, chances are you're a nonexempt employee who's entitled to overtime pay when you work more than 40 hours in a workweek. Your manager is prohibited from altering your time card if she's taking away overtime hours, even if the extra time wasn't authorized or required. Under federal law, employers must compensate nonexempt employees for overtime, regardless of whether the time was approved. This is an unjustifiable reason for altering time cards in favor of the employer. But if you continually work unauthorized overtime and there's a workplace policy that requires supervisor approval for extra hours, you could be subject to disciplinary action.
- Oasis Outsourcing: Timecard Rounding as a Payroll Practice
- U.S. Department of Labor: Fact Sheet No. 22: Hours Worked Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
- U.S. Department of Labor: Minimum Length of Meal Period Required Under State Law for Adult Employees in the Private Sector
- Nolo: EmploymentLawFirms.com: Are Employers Obligated to Pay Unauthorized Overtime?
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.