Can Employers Change Time Cards? 

You have your time card management down to a science. Employees fill them out, you approve them, and boom! You send them off to payroll, and your job is done. But what happens when an employee makes a mistake? Can employers change time cards? Or is it illegal for an employer to change time cards?

When it comes to workplace compliance, no employer wants to be in the dark. Read on to learn:

  • Are you required to use time cards?
  • Can employers change time cards?
  • What happens if employers illegally change time cards?
  • How to improve time card management 

Are you required to use time cards?

A time card is a timekeeping method employers use to record and track an employee’s hours worked each day. Using time cards helps you run payroll and pay hourly (and salaried) employees for their time worked. Time cards can show you regular hours worked, overtime hours worked, and paid time off. 

So, are employers required to use time cards? According to the FLSA, employers can use any timekeeping method they want. 

That means you can:

  1. Use a time clock and have employees punch in and out
  2. Have a timekeeper track employee work hours
  3. Ask employees to record their hours worked

When it comes to timekeeping, the world is your oyster. But, there is one fundamental rule. The FLSA requires that your time records for nonexempt employees are complete and accurate. 

Your time records should include include the employee’s name, pay period, date and day worked, hours worked, and total workweek hours. 

Keep time cards and other records on which wage computations are based (e.g., work and time schedules) for two years. You also need to keep payroll records for at least three years. 

Long story short, the FLSA doesn’t care what timekeeping method you choose. But you need to keep complete and accurate records for the required time. 

Can employers change time cards? 

So, is it illegal to change an employee’s time card? Can an employer take away hours? Give hours? Is changing time card without permission legal, or do you have to ask permission from the employee first? 

What exactly are the rules for changing employee time cards? 

Here’s the bottom line: Yes, employers can modify employee time cards without asking their permission. Again, the FLSA requires that employers keep records, but you can use any timekeeping method. And, you don’t have to involve employees in keeping time at all (e.g., you can have a timekeeper track work hours). 

Here’s the but: No, you cannot modify employee time cards if the changes don’t reflect their total hours worked. Remember, your time cards must be “complete and accurate” under FLSA rules. So, not all time card changes are allowed. And because you must retain time cards for two years, there’s plenty of time for employees to verify your time card modifications are legal.

Read on to learn when altering time is acceptable—and when it’s not. 

Can employers change employee time cards? Acceptable and unacceptable reasons for adjustments

When altering time is acceptable

In many cases, editing an employee’s time card is acceptable and necessary to accurately pay employees for hours worked. 

You may need to change a time card if an employee:

  • Forgot to punch in or out for work
  • Failed to record their hours worked 
  • Made a mistake when entering their hours worked (e.g., 88 instead of 8)
  • Marked hours worked when they were actually on paid vacation or sick leave

When altering time is illegal 

Not all time card changes are acceptable. Time cards must reflect the employee’s actual hours worked. Time card manipulation and falsifying employee time cards are illegal. 

You cannot modify an employee’s time card to:

  • Punish an employee
  • Avoid paying an employee for overtime 
  • Lower an employee’s actual hours worked in any way 

What happens if employers illegally change time cards?

The FLSA requires employers to pay nonexempt employees for all hours worked, including regular and overtime wages. 

Failing to pay employees for their hours worked can trigger a lawsuit, resulting in back wages, attorney fees, and criminal penalties (including fines and imprisonment. 

How to improve time card management

As an employer, you must retain complete and accurate records that reflect each employee’s hours worked. 

You can improve time card management by:

  • Using time and attendance software that lets you include a comment when you edit or reject time cards
  • Having employees record their hours worked 
  • Encouraging managers or payroll administrators to check employee time cards for accuracy
  • Making sure all employees know how to use your timekeeping system 
  • Encouraging employees to double-check the hours they record
  • Talking with employees if you have a question about their time card 

And last but not least, remember to retain employee time card records for two years. Not sure where two years’ worth of paper records will go? Use an online time and attendance system to keep digital records organized in one place. 

Patriot’s Time & Attendance Software is a payroll software add-on that lets you manage employee time cards in seconds. If the time card is inaccurate, easily edit or reject cards. Once good to go, approve and send them to payroll with the click of a button. Get your free trial of our online payroll and Time & Attendance add-on today! 

This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.

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