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Is it legal for employers to alter timeclock records?

On Behalf of | May 24, 2024 | Wage & Hour Law

Hourly workers get paid based on how long their shifts are. They clock in and out at the beginning and end of every shift, often by using a digital time clock station or specialized software on a point-of-sale system which keeps records of the exact time the employee clocks in and out.

It is the employer who collects and maintains the information about when workers are on the clock.  Businesses might try to reduce the length of someone’s shifts to pay them less. Sometimes, the business will change one or two minutes and the employees are not aware of the change.  However, one or two minutes could become more significant if the company, in addition to altering the records, has a rounding practice that will round the clock-in time forward and clock-out time backwards for purposes of payroll.  Is it legal for companies to alter time clock records? 

Alterations To Time Records Are Rarely Permissible

In California, employers typically have to pay workers whenever they are required to be on the job, even if they are not doing anything but wait. The Labor Code also requires that employers maintain accurate records of when workers start and end their shifts for years after they work. Those records should accurately reflect each shift the employees worked.  The instances when an employer can alter the clock-in and out times without raising a red flag are very few.  Typically, these instances are limited to correct the records at the request of the employee.  For example, when the employee forgot to clock out at the end of their shift, the company could alter the time out of the shift to reflect the actual duration of someone’s work day. 

Adjustments made to diminish payroll responsibility are a violation of a worker’s rights. If employees discover that the company that hired them has manipulated payroll records to reduce the duration of each shift by a few minutes, they could potentially have grounds for a wage and hour claim. Holding a company accountable for manipulating payroll records for financial benefit could help workers obtain the pay they deserve for the time they have already worked.