Employees deserve to be paid accurately for their hours worked, so unauthorized time card changes can be not only upsetting but potentially illegal. If you have been wondering, “Can I sue my employer for changing my time card?” The possibility of suing hinges on specific circumstances.
In this guide, we will explore the legalities of time card alterations by employers, providing key information regarding employee rights and the potential impacts on employees that can occur due to these changes.
This guide will also outline how an employee could file a lawsuit if the employer falsifies time sheets.
Can Employers Legally Alter Time Cards?
Employers can take certain actions regarding time cards, but others are legally prohibited. Understanding the differences between legal and illegal actions is essential to determine if you may have a case.
Federal wage and hour legislation, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, dictates the legality surrounding time card alterations and exceptions.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Time Card Alterations
The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor administers the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards affecting nonexempt employees in the private sector and Federal, State, and local governments.
While the FLSA establishes federal standards for wage and hour regulations, individual states might have their own specific laws and processes. It’s essential for workers to be aware of their local regulations and consider consulting with local attorneys for guidance.
The recordkeeping component of the legislation includes guidelines that employers must obey regarding time card alterations. It requires employers to keep records of the following:
- Start time and day of the employee’s workweek.
- Daily hours worked.
- Basis for wage calculation (e.g., “$11/hr”, “$500/week”, “piecework”).
- Regular hourly pay.
- Daily or weekly straight-time earnings.
- Overtime earnings for the workweek.
Timekeeping methods can be paper-based, electronic (e.g., email), or through automated cloud platforms.
The Importance of Electronic Time Card Accuracy Across All Industries
Electronic time cards have become a staple in many workplaces, from retail and manufacturing to healthcare and beyond. While the method of clocking in and out may vary from one industry to another, the responsibility of the HR department and management remains consistent: ensuring these electronic records are accurate and well-maintained.
Are you a remote worker? You may have an internal electronic system with your company that you log in to, be tracked by an automatic cloud-based platform, or another method. Your company likely monitors these, while certain positions have more independence. Accuracy is still necessary to ensure employees are paid appropriately for all hours worked.
The FLSA requires employers to have accurate and up-to-date information on time cards and all items listed above. If an employer falsifies timesheets, they can face lawsuits, fines, and potentially even criminal charges.
Exceptions: When Can an Employer Clock You Out Without Your Knowledge?
While workplaces are often bustling with activity, leading to occasional oversights in timekeeping, any corrections made by employers must genuinely represent the actual hours worked. It’s not only important for these adjustments to be accurate, but they should also be communicated transparently to the affected employees. Let’s explore some situations where these corrections might be legally warranted.
Can an employer clock you out without your knowledge? Yes, in certain circumstances.
For example, say you are a retail clothing store employee and just finished your 9-6 shift. You had a birthday party to attend that was across the city by 7 pm and were in a rush. You forgot to clock out. The manager (or another authorized person in charge of timekeeping) can enter the system and input 6:00 for your clock-out time.
Have you ever brought a delicious lunch to work and were so hungry you went right to the microwave to heat it up and forgot to clock out? An authorized person can go in and put in your actual lunch break times.
Other legal scenarios when an employer may be able to adjust time cards include the following:
- An employee called in sick or took vacation time.
- An employee could not clock in or out to technical issues with the system.
- An employee created a double punch when they clocked in or out.
- An employee had to leave work quickly for personal reasons.
- An employee recorded the wrong time on their time sheet.
These adjustments all have to be factual in the employee’s hours worked.
When is Employer Time Card Manipulation Illegal?
Employers sometimes take illegal actions with time cards to save money or increase their profits. Employees should not be taken advantage of in this way, and this behavior should never be tolerated.
Unauthorized Changes to Employee’s Scheduled Work Hours
Making unauthorized changes to an employee’s scheduled work hours is illegal.
Consider a situation where you’ve consistently worked set hours at a store or warehouse, only to find that management or supervisors alter your time card, reducing the hours you’ve actually worked. This could happen by changing your clock-out time or shaving off minutes from your shifts.
It violates your rights when an employer deducts small amounts of time from your recorded work hours, which can add up to significant wage theft.
Not Paying for All Hours Worked
When an employer is not paying employees for all hours worked, this is another form of illegal time card change.
Example: You are a hospitality professional working at a nice hotel. Your manager consistently asks you to come in early or stay late after your regular working hours to help set up special events or to clean up afterward, saying that it will help you get promoted. They do not pay you for that extra time.
Off-the-Clock Work, essentially any task an employee performs outside their scheduled hours without clocking in, is a significant concern. It often results in wage underpayment, including the omission of deserved overtime. Employers must ensure employees are compensated for all tasks performed, regardless of whether they’re conducted within regular work hours.
The Infringement: How Time Card Changes Impact Employees
Unlawful time card changes can have huge impacts on employees. Financial difficulties are common due to nonpayment of all hours worked, which can cause bills to be paid late and household instability. It can prevent employees from saving money to buy a home or a car. Time card changes can lead to a cascade of problems. These can place immense stress on a family, disrupt your standard of living, and even jeopardize your career.
How Unlawful Time Card Changes Can Affect Your Paycheck
Each action an employer takes to unlawfully change your time card hacks away at your financial stability.
Consider this: if they shave off two hours of OT every week due to time card changes, that eight hours could take eight family dinners off the kitchen table. If the changes continue over a year or more, they can create absolute havoc in multiple areas of your finances.
Unlawful time card changes equate to your employer taking cash directly from you.
Scope of impact example: According to the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General, from the fiscal years 2014 – 2019, employees filed 41 grievances nationwide related to disallowed time card adjustments, resulting in $532,708 in grievance payments, which averages $12,992 per employee. This is a significant loss of wages – and money that can go toward rent/mortgage, food, utilities, education and supplies, vacations, healthcare expenses, and more.
The Hidden Costs: Psychological Impact and Job Satisfaction
When employers falsify timesheets, the hidden costs aren’t just monetary. Falsifying timesheets can affect performance, which in turn can harm your career prospects. According to an American Psychological Association (APA) Work and Well-being Survey, a whopping 71% of respondents found workplace stress to be a major source of anxiety. While this includes a range of workplace issues, it’s crucial to identify whether time card alterations contribute to this stress and communicate with employers or HR departments about it.
How To Sue an Employer for Changing Time Cards
In continuing to address the question, “Can I sue my employer for changing my time card?” it is necessary to understand the process for this type of employee rights violation lawsuit.
The first step is to consult an experienced employee rights attorney. You should do your best to collect evidence associated with the time card changes regarding your complaint, and the attorney will evaluate the claim and advise on the next steps.
What Proof Do You Need to Sue Your Employer for Changing Your Time Card?
Evidence that can support such a lawsuit includes:
- Documentation of weekly schedules
- Pay stubs or copies of electronic paychecks
- HR documentation of your hourly rate of pay
- Documentation of related communications (such as emails, texts, or voice messages requesting/requiring you to come to work outside of your designated schedule)
- Documentation of working outside your designated schedule (such as photos or related materials of events, special projects, etc.)
Documenting everything is very important to building a powerful case.
The Process: How to Initiate a Lawsuit for Unlawful Time Card Changes
If you have a valid case, you must file a claim under the FLSA. The claim should be accurate, comprehensive, and as strong as possible.
After this is filed and processed, negotiations for fair compensation with your employer will be conducted. If necessary, the case will go to court, and your attorney will advocate on your behalf for justice and resolution.
Employees Who Sued Their Employers for Time Card Changes
In 2021, UPS employees in California sued the company accusing them of changing their time cards and not paying them for work-related activities. The time cards were changed on multiple occasions.
In 2022, Minneapolis home healthcare workers filed a complaint against Golden Valley, a national chain, to recover back wages and liquidated damages. The Wage and Hour Division of the DOL determined that the employer owes $75,101 in overtime back wages to the affected workers.
Regardless of size, employers should be held accountable for violating employee rights.
Empowering Employees in the Face of Unlawful Time Card Changes
In conclusion, understanding your rights regarding time card alterations is paramount. If you suspect discrepancies in your recorded hours, take proactive measures. It’s essential to seek guidance from an experienced employment lawyer if you believe your employer has unlawfully altered your time card, as legal recourse is available to protect your rights.
At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we have extensive experience in handling wage disputes and protecting the rights of employees. Our team of skilled employment attorneys is well-versed in labor laws and can provide the necessary expertise to evaluate your case and guide you through the legal process.
By consulting with our attorneys, you can understand your rights, gather the necessary evidence to support your claim and navigate the complexities of filing a complaint or pursuing a lawsuit. We are dedicated to fighting for justice on behalf of employees whom unlawful time card alterations have victimized.
Don’t let your hard-earned wages be unjustly withheld or manipulated. Take a proactive step towards securing your rights and holding your employer accountable. If you believe you have a case involving unlawful time card changes, contact Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., today to schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our experienced wage dispute lawyers. Together, we can strive for fair compensation and workplace justice.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.