The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that you keep accurate records of nonexempt employees' hours worked. As a result, you developed a timekeeping system. However, there may be times when your employees' time sheets need to be adjusted. Are you allowed to make the change? Typically, yes.
As noted above, the employer is ultimately liable for keeping accurate timekeeping records. The employer can designate managers or supervisors to track employees' hours and make time sheet changes — provided the adjustments reflect the correct hours worked.
However, it's very important that you make time sheet changes only when warranted. Below are some instances of when the change is acceptable:
- The employee forgot to clock in or out. You can fill in the missing punches, but you'll need to ensure your entries are correct. You may check with the employee to confirm the missing data; but remember, you're ultimately responsible for accurately tracking and recording the employee's time.
- The employee took paid or unpaid time off. With an automated timekeeping system, you'll need to enter the type of time off taken and applicable hours to be paid. With a manual system, the employee should write (on the paper time sheet) the hours taken and submit the time sheet to you for approval.
Automated timekeeping systems usually keep a record of the changes, including who made them. However, manual time sheets do not provide that luxury, so make sure you initial any changes you make. Both you and the employee should sign and retain a copy of the modified paper time sheet.
Always remember that it's illegal to falsify employees' time sheets. This means you cannot change employees' time sheet to reflect fewer hours than they worked or to escape paying overtime. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, this is true even if the employee agrees to the change.
Employers — along with managers and supervisors who approve time records on behalf of the employer — can be held liable for falsifying time sheets or refusing to pay employees for all hours worked. For example, the employer can be required to pay back wages, civil and criminal penalties, and attorney costs.
Multiple investigations have resulted in employers facing harsh legal consequences — including jail time — for falsifying time records. Often, these proceedings stem from the employer's refusal to pay the employee for overtime hours worked.
Below are two real-life examples in which the employers were found liable:
- Bailey v. TitleMax of Georgia. Here, the employer evaded paying overtime by editing the employee's time sheets to reflect fewer hours than the employee worked.
- Abdul Jamil Khokhar and BMY Foods Inc. In this scenario, the employer escaped paying overtime by tricking its payroll system into paying overtime at the regular rate of pay instead of at time and a half.
When you make time sheet changes, inform affected employees promptly so they will know what to expect on payday. This will also allow you to sort out any timekeeping-related differences with the employee ahead of time.