Can an employer take away hours already worked? The short answer is no. Federal and state laws protect Florida workers from a wide range of unfair employment practices. Among these, laws are in place to protect employees from having their timesheets falsified or having an employer refuse to pay wages for hours already worked.
Unfortunately, laws do not always prevent employers from engaging inunfair and illegal practices. Employees need to know the laws around workplace timekeeping. Otherwise, it is hard to recognize when an employer’s actions break the law and violate your rights as a worker.
If your employer is manipulating timesheets or refusing to pay you for hours worked, an employment lawyer can help defend your rights and even help you gain additional compensation.
Can an Employer Change Your Clock-In Time?
If you have noticed your timesheets do not accurately reflect the hours you have worked, you may be asking, “Is falsifying time sheets a violation of federal law?” Falsifying timesheets is illegal. However, every change to a worker’s timesheet does not necessarily break the law.
There are plenty of valid situations where a supervisor might modify a worker’s timesheet. Most of the time, this is related to an error that needs to be corrected. When a worker forgets to clock in or out or accidentally punches in multiple times, the supervisor has every right to adjust the time clock to show the hours actually worked.
Changes that go beyond accurately reflecting hours worked are usually illegal. An employer cannot modify your timesheet as a form of punishment or to cut down on their payroll costs. Generally, hourly workers must perform all of their work duties while on the clock. Expecting an employee to work without pay or falsifying their timecard to reduce the amount of wages owed to them is an illegal practice.
Federal Labor Laws and Regulations
Federal labor laws regulate how employers are required to record working hours. As part of these regulations, employers are subject to strict rules for keeping track of the hours a worker has put in on the job.
These laws are primarily laid out in theFair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) enforced by theWage and Hour Division”>Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor. FLSA laws guarantee that workers earn at least minimum wage and specify that employers are not allowed to reduce overtime payments owed to an employee. Under the FLSA, there is no limit to the number of hours an employee can work.
The Wage and Hour Division is the governmental body that lays out rules and regulations for how employers are required to track worker hours. Among other laws, this U.S. Department of Labor division specifies how employers must accurately keep track of hours worked and compensate workers for hours spent on the job.
The Wage and Hour Division is also responsible for enforcement when an employer fails to follow regulations for documenting hours, including enforcement for illegal practices like falsifying a worker’s timecard or failing to log hours an employee spent working.
Potential Consequences for Employers
Employers can face serious consequences for violating federal labor laws and regulations. If an investigation by the Wage and Hour Division discovers that an employer is guilty of falsifying time cards or failing to document the hours an employee has worked, they can face legal and financial penalties.
Falsifying a worker’s timecard is unlawful. If your employer or supervisor is found guilty, they may be found liable for civil damages.
Can I Sue My Employer for Changing My Time Card?
You have a few different legal options if your employer unfairly adjusted your hours. You may have grounds to sue depending on the amount of wages withheld from you. Disputes for amounts under $8000 in Florida are typically handled in small claims court.
However, if your employer has falsified your timesheet, there is a good chance they have done the same to other employees. The safest approach is to consult an employment lawyer as your first course of action.
A Florida employment law firm can advise you on how to file a complaint or legal action and tell you what documentation you need to succeed. Illegal practices related to timekeeping should be reported to the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.
As part of its regulations, the Wage and Hour Division requires that employers keep payroll records for three years and timesheets for two years. If your workplace still uses manual timesheets, it is easy enough to show a discrepancy between hours punched and the hours you were paid to work.
It is more common these days for companies to use electronic timesheets. Depending on the program your company uses, edits made to your timecard may be tracked. Again, this makes it easy to see that your employer changed the original entries for when you clocked in and out.
Signs Your Employer May Be Changing Your Time Card
If you do not watch your timesheets carefully, you might not even notice that your hours are being manipulated. You should always keep records of your clock-in and clock-out time and the amount of overtime pay owed to you.
Every time you receive a paycheck, take the time to check your pay and compare it to the hours you have worked. Sometimes employers cut out a noticeable amount of time from an employee’s timesheet. Other times, they may only cut hours randomly, falsifying timesheets for some pay periods but not others.
Steps to Take if You Suspect Your Hours Are Being Manipulated
Before taking action over a falsified timesheet, it is best to collect proof that your timesheet is being modified. Take photos of your timecard or keep copies of the time stubs that print off when you clock in and out.
If your employer falsifies your timesheet, the safest course of action is to consult an employment lawyer immediately. A lawyer will help walk you through the process of filing a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division, including the type of evidence you need to submit.
Real-world Cases: Employers Changing Time Cards
Unfortunately, falsifying employee timesheets to save money or punish a worker happens all too often. These real-world examples show what can happen when an employer breaks the laws that regulate timekeeping.
Home Depot and “Timesheet Rounding”
In early 2023, Home Depot made headlines for its practice of “timesheet rounding.” The national chain found itself at the center of several employee lawsuits over the practice of rounding employee timesheets to the nearest 15 minutes.
In the lawsuits against Home Depot, employees alleged that the chain was intentionally and illegally rounding down hours to cut payroll costs. As a result of the lawsuits, Home Depot chose to modify its payment practice, opting to pay employees for every minute worked.
Five Star Automatic Fire Protection and Unreported Hours
Five Star Automatic Fire Protection, LLC is a Texas-based company that installs sprinkler systems. The company came under fire in 2021 for implementing various illegal timekeeping practices, including having employees submit handwritten timesheets that simply documented the total number of hours worked in a day.
The company only allowed workers to document the hours spent at the job site, failing to document or compensate for time spent at the company headquarters at the start and end of each shift and the commute time it took workers to travel from headquarters to job sites each day.
The U.S. Department of Labor took the company to court. As a result of the case,Five Star Automatic was fined $121,687.37 in employee back wages, the same amount in liquidated damages, and another $2,604.35 for timekeeping violations.
Guidance for Employees: What to Do When Your Work Hours Are Manipulated
If you find yourself on the internet searching terms like “what can happen if an employer falsifies employee timesheets,” it is probably time to call an employment lawyer for advice.
Typically, identifying timesheet falsification begins with the suspicion that your paycheck looks wrong. If you have kept documentation of your clock-in and clock-out times, comparing them to your paystub is not hard. However, workers often do not hang on to the proof they need to show they have not been paid fairly.
Gathering Evidence: Documenting Your Worked Hours
You should not assume that an investigation will be able to produce proof of a claim that an employer is falsifying timesheets. The best way to protect yourself is to keep proof of the hours you have worked.
Most electronic timecard systems print off a slip when employees clock in and out. Keeping these slips on record might be the only proof you have when proving that your employer falsified the record of the hours you worked.
If your employer still uses manual timecards, take a photo of the card when you clock in and out. If your physical time card goes missing during an investigation, photos can help prove that you were not paid for the hours you worked.
Seeking Legal Counsel: When and Why It Is Necessary
You should speak with a lawyer if you suspect your employer illegally modified your time card. To take action against your employer, you need to file a complaint with the Wage and Hour Division or a lawsuit.
However, this process can be complicated. The more evidence you provide, the more likely your employer will be found guilty of breaking the law. A lawyer can help maximize your chances of success by advising you on how to file the complaint and what evidence you should submit.
An employment lawyer can also identify whether your case is eligible for a lawsuit to pursue civil damages. You may be able to recover compensation for having your workplace rights violated. However, you need an experienced employment lawyer to identify whether you qualify and, if you do, to build a case on your behalf.
Hiring a Florida Employment & Labor Law Attorney for Time Disputes
Being robbed of your wages by an employer is a profound injustice. It is also, in some circumstances, a federal crime. If you suspect your employer is falsifying your timecard, you should immediately take advantage of a free consultation with an employment law lawyer.
The Florida wage dispute lawyers at Wenzel Fenton Cabassa P.A. fight for justice when workers become victims of illegal employer practices. Our firm works on contingency, which means you only pay if we win your case.Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.
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.