What is Time Card Manipulation?

Time cards are important for keeping track of hours worked, in turn giving a record to determine an employee’s pay. When those records are inaccurate, it can hurt an employee’s paycheck, causing other financial difficulties in the process. While incorrect punch-ins and punch-outs can cause these problems, sometimes they’re the result of time card manipulation.

What Is Time Card Manipulation?

Time card manipulation is the unfair practice of adjusting someone’s hours in a way that incorrectly reflects the employee’s time spent working. Many places of work use digital time card systems to keep track of when employees come in for their shift, take time for their breaks, and leave for the day. The hours recorded by the time clock then become the basis for employees’ paychecks.

While it would be nice if these systems were foolproof, sometimes errors can mean that the time clock isn’t accurate. An employee may forget to clock in or out for the day, or a technical problem can mean that an employee cannot access the time clock system. To help resolve such issues, managers often have the capability to edit hours worked so that the system properly represents an employee’s hours.

However, this editing ability also means that it’s possible for managers to change workers hours in a way that shortchanges employees for their work. When this happens, it’s a violation of California labor laws, and employees have a right to compensation.

Why Might a Manager Commit Time Card Manipulation?

California has very specific laws in place that regulate how much payment employees receive. Among them are the state’s overtime laws, which dictate that employees receive additional payment for hours worked beyond 40 in a week or beyond 8 in a day. Additionally, employees also have a right to breaks on shifts of a certain length, and they must receive payment for time worked if they do not take such breaks.

Most often, an employer will commit time card manipulation to avoid paying an employee full overtime or rest and meal premiums. Such manipulations can involve changing clock-in and clock-out times to change the hours worked in a week to less than 40, or the hours worked in a day to less than 8. It can also mean adding in breaks an employee did not take to take away rest and meal premiums.

Sometimes, the problem may be one manager targeting a single employee, the result of company pressures to cut back on costs of labor, or multiple other factors. No matter the reason, changing a time card for any of these situations is a violation of California labor laws.

What California Labor Laws Say About Recording Hours Worked

All California employers must correctly record hours worked and provide appropriate compensation to their employees. Statutes also prohibit any manipulation of hours worked. Some of the common methods for keeping a time card include paper time sheets, clocks with punch cards, or modern computerized systems that operate through swipe cards and log ins. Employees have a legal right to payment for hours worked, and rest and meal breaks missed.

If you suspect that your employer has been committing time card manipulation to take away your pay or break time, then you may be eligible for compensation in the form of lost wages and potential punitive damages. Consulting with an experienced employee attorney is your best course of action. To receive compensation for time card manipulation, you will need to prove that your actual work hours differ from those recorded. An attorney can help you gather the necessary evidence to make your claim, as well as assist with the filing and court processes.