Can managers change employee timesheets?

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Yes. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers must keep certain records for nonexempt employees, including hours worked each day and total hours worked each workweek. Employers may use any time-keeping method they choose, including written time sheets, time clocks or automated time-keeping systems. Employers may allow supervisors to keep track of their employees' work hours, have employees track their own time or permit a combination of the two. Under the FLSA, however, employers—not the employees—have the ultimate responsibility to maintain these records. For this reason, employers have the ability to change employee time records but must ensure that the records accurately reflect the time actually worked.

There are only certain times when employers should change employee time records. For example, if an employee forgets to record his or her start time on a time sheet or forgets to punch in on a time clock, an employer may enter the employee's time on either record to ensure that the employee is paid correctly. Another example is when an employee is out sick. The employer may change the time record to reflect a paid sick day instead of time worked. However, an employer may not change a time record to show a number of hours that is fewer than what was actually worked. For example, an employer may not change an employee's time record from 48 hours to 40 hours in a workweek in order to avoid overtime payment, even if an employee were to consent to the change.

A common lawsuit filed is one in which an employee claims that the employer has not paid him or her for all hours worked or for owed overtime. Employers found liable may be required to pay damages, including back pay, attorney fees, and civil or criminal penalties under both federal and state laws. Employers may also be held personally liable under the FLSA. The FLSA defines an employer as "any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee."

Measures to minimize time record changes include the following:

  • Require all employees to record and maintain their own time records.
  • Have supervisors record or closely monitor their subordinates' hours worked.
  • Hold employees accountable for following time-keeping policies and procedures.
  • Develop policies prohibiting off-the-clock work.
  • Ensure that employees are relieved of all duties during unpaid meal periods.
  • Have employees sign and date their own time records.
  • Require employees and managers to acknowledge when changes are made to a time record.

When time records are changed, an employer may want to keep the original record and create a new record, or it may want to cross out the error on the original time record, make the correction, and have both the manager and employee sign and date the change. Documentation should be established to note the reason for any modifications. Automated time-keeping systems typically have features to record a history of changes and who made them and may also be set up to obtain the acknowledgment of both the employee and the employer when changes occur.

To minimize liability, time-keeping records should be maintained in such a way that a third party, such as an auditor from the Department of Labor, can tell that the records, including any changes, are genuine and reflect the time actually worked. 


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