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Can an Employer Modify an Employee’s Time Sheet?

Believe it or not, it is perfectly legal for an employer to modify an employee’s time sheet without notifying the employee.  While falsification of an employee’s time sheet is a serious offense, employers are permitted to change an employee’s time sheet as long as all changes reflect the actual hours that the employee worked.

What is illegal and can result in large penalties and damages is falsifying an employee’s time sheet data.  It should be obvious to employers that they cannot reduce the amount of hours an employee worked on the employee’s time card in an effort to avoid paying overtime.

So when is it permissible for an employer to modify an employee’s time sheet?  Let’s take a look at some situations and the best practices to make changes to employees’ time sheets while still complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

When Can Employers Alter Time Sheets?

Although many companies direct employees to track their own work hours, the FLSA mandates that employers are ultimately responsible for keeping track of their employees’ work hours.  As a result, employers are permitted to alter their employee’s time records as long as they accurately reflect the amount of time the employee actually worked.

However, employers are not permitted to modify an employee’s time card to reduce the number of hours that were worked.  Nor are employers permitted to pressure employees into submitting false time sheets that fail to include all hours worked, including overtime.  Under either of these examples employers would violate the FLSA and state wage and hour laws, and would likely result in the filing of a wage and hour lawsuit.

There are acceptable circumstances when an employer may alter an employee’s time card.  For example, employers are permitted to modify a time sheet if the employee forgot to clock-in in order to accurately record the time the employee worked and to ensure the employee is paid for the actual hours he or she worked.  Employers may also amend an employee’s time card if the employee calls out of work in order to reflect the hours the employee did not work.

Best Practices For Modifying Time Sheets

While the FLSA does not require employers to notify their employees or obtain their employees’ consent to amend their time sheets, employers may not simply edit an employee’s time card without a sufficient reason as stated above.

When modifying time cards, employers must have a legitimate and justifiable reason to implement a change to an employee’s time sheet.  For example, if an employer wants to alter an employee’s time sheet because that employee came in late and did not reflect their tardiness on their time sheet, the employer may alter the time sheet to show the actual time the employee began to work.  Employers should have sufficient evidence to warrant changing the time sheet, such as camera evidence to show the employee wasn’t working.  In accordance with the FLSA, any changes to employees’ time records must include accurate information about the data, hours worked, and wages earned.

How can employers modify time sheet data while being upfront and open with their employees?

  1. Require supervisors and managers to obtain pre-approval prior to altering an employee’s time sheet. This will give the employer an opportunity to verify any modification to the employee’s time record to ensure the change accurately reflects the hours the employee worked.  Additionally, this step can likely help to support an employer’s defense if an employee should bring a wage and hour lawsuit against the employer.

  2. Be sure to have proper documentation supporting your justification to modify the employee’s time sheet. Before any changes are made to an employee’s time records, ensure there is proper documentation backing the decision for the alteration.  If it seems there is a mistake in the employee’s time records, it is a good idea to verify that mistake with the employee prior to the implementation of any changes.

  3. Keep records of both the unedited and edited versions of employees’ time records. Should employers choose to alter time sheets, it is recommended that the employer maintain records of both the unaltered and altered versions of the time sheets, including notes or other documentation stating the reason for any changes made to the time sheets.  This can be helpful in the event that an employee disagrees with the modifications made to his or her time sheets.

  4. Have employees acknowledge all changes made to their time sheets. After altering an employee’s time sheet, it is a good idea to let the employee review both the unedited and edited version of the time sheet and state the reason why a change was made.  Employers should also have the employee sign and date the edited version to show the employee acknowledged that a change was made and that he or she understood why the record was altered.

Employers must remember that whether you choose to have employees track their time manually or you track their hours worked, it is ultimately the employer’s responsibility to track all employees’ time worked.  PMP is here to help employers maintain clear and accurate records to ensure compliance with the FLSA and state wage and hours laws.


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