Threat of illegal changing time clocks

I have a POS and the employees clock in/out. I have told them that if they clock in early because we had an unexpected rush or something happened that they needed to, to let me know and write in on the schedule, otherwise their clock in time will be as their schedule.
Every week I adjust the clock ins before I send payroll. Some will clock in as soon as they get there so they ‘won’t forget’ and it’ll be 20 minutes early. If they are actually needed on the clock then of course I will leave as is, but if they are in the kitchen gabbing to the others then I’m going to put it back to their time in.
What is the point in having a schedule trying to keep labor costs under control if everyone just comes and goes as pleased?
So the point is, I have a moody pregnant employee now, who is touting to everyone that “her mom” says me changing time clocks is illegal. I think I am safe as I have repeatedly told every employee the way I do time clocks. Any opinions?

This is my opinion and since I am not a lawyer it carries no legal weight. I would let the staff know they are only paid for scheduled hours unless requested, by an authorized manager, to start early, leave early, or stay late. The time clock is a tool for management to determine if the employee has complied with the schedule and/or requests from management.

When I worked for lettuce entertain you the clock in was set up so they needed a manager to punch them in or out if it was outside of a five minute window of their schedule. I would never go back and adjust employee times, some of them keep their time slips. What’s it going to look like in court if they have the receipts and you’ve changed it? Who do you think the judge is going to believe? I’m no lawyer but the general counsel of lettuce told us not to adjust unless employee was present.

I am going to echo a little of what has already been said, and then add my own. When I worked for PJs and now that I started my own independent, the point of sale would always check the time aganst their scheduled clock in time, if it was x minutes before or x minutes after, it would require a manager approval to clock in, which these approvals appeared in my exceptions report so I could see who approved it if I had any questions.

Having said that, the only time I ever edit an employee time card is after I have a signed and scanned document that is attached to the employee record indiciating exactly what I am editing, why I am editing it, and any comments or concerns they would like noted with it. It simply reads something along the lines of:

On 04/26/14 the time clock for John Doe (ID #) was altered due to the employee forgetting to clock out for their break. The original time clock on 04/25/14 shows a clock in time of 0900 hours with a clock out of 1800 hours. The clock out time is being reduced to 1700 hours with a net difference of 1.00 hours.

John has been made aware of this time clock edit and their concerns are noted below.

The actual sheet has the date, name, and times hand written in addition to the employee notations, and at the bottom is a signature line for the editing manager, their immediate supervisor, and the employee. This prevents any issues as the computer logs all time edits, and we keep the documentation corresponding to each edit.

If an employee were to refuse to sign the edit, then we write in the employee comments: Refused to sign and continue with it any way as long as it was justified and we can prove it. If it is something we cannot prove, as opposed to allowing it to possibly bite us in the ass, we eat the loss and write up the employee for the issue, and move forward with a closer eye on the employee.

Unfortunately, keep in mind I am not an attorney, but I do think that any adjustment of time without the employees authorization to that specific instance can be construed as theft, because they were “allowed” to clock in by the acting manager, and if they were not kept productive during that time it is a management issue, they were still physically there under the assumption of pay. If an employee is clocking in without approval, document it and terminate them, but I would advise against continuing to edit timeclocks as it does not address the underlying issue (employees clocking in without proper authorization).

Clocking in early can become a problem. Employees who do it receive written warnings and if can lead to termination.

It is going to vary by state according to that state’s labor laws. In Washington state, it is illegal to alter an employees time card unless both the employee and manager sign the time card. It is viewed as a legal document that can be presented in labor court as binding evidence. So just be careful and check your local labor laws.