Time sheets: FAQs

Time clocks, time cards and time sheets are basic necessities for payroll purposes, workplace recordkeeping, Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) tracking, etc. But legal disputes under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) can arise over whether managers are allowed to alter time sheets; whether exempts may have their employment status altered by having to fill out time cards; and methods to prevent employees from falsifying their time records.

FAQs about time sheets

1. Is it illegal for managers to change employees’ time sheets, exempt or nonexempt, if they neglect to indicate a day off, etc.?

Time sheets are the property of the company, and it is a company obligation to make sure they are correct. Otherwise they could run afoul of payroll and benefits laws, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

For example, if a manager alters a time sheet without the knowledge of the employee and without a sound business reason, and it alters the employee’s deserved pay, then the FLSA may apply. However, if an employee accidentally leaves off a vacation day, it would seem fair and appropriate that a manager rectify the oversight.

2. Can exempt employees be required to submit time sheets without having their exempt status jeopardized?

Nothing in the FLSA prohibits employers from requiring exempt employees to submit time sheets, as long as those employees’ wages aren’t calculated according to the time recorded. Time sheets are a simple and uniform way of tracking all employees’ entitlement to vacation, sick, and personal time.

3. What are some suggestions for preventing employees from falsifying their time cards?

Make sure employees keep hours correctly with the following tips:

FLSA Compliance D
  • Discipline employees who allow someone else to mark their time sheets or punch in their time cards, or who do so for others.
  • Reiterate that employees should not punch in or mark their time sheets until they are ready to start working. Eating breakfast, making personal calls or engaging in any other nonwork activities should be taken care of before punching in.
  • Remind managers that if employees forget to punch in, they still need to be paid for any hours worked. But also let them know that it is legal to discipline those who consistently forget to punch in for failing to follow policy.
  • Stress the need for managers to keep a close eye on employees’ hours. Merely issuing an order that nonexempt employees may not put in overtime without prior authorization or that they may not voluntarily work “off the clock” won’t shield you from having to pay up if employees don’t comply. Employers must pay for work that is “suffered or permitted.”
  • Don’t be afraid to require exempt employees to use time cards or time sheets. Reasons to do so: ensuring they put in a minimum number of hours as required, tracking when certain benefits vest if based on hours worked, etc. Just be sure their pay doesn’t fluctuate with the number of hours worked.
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