Accused of Time Theft by My Employer – Is That a Real Thing?

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Wage theft from an employer occurs when an employer fails to pay an employee for the time that he or she worked and is entitled to pay. This can occur when an employer pays the employee for fewer hours, misclassifies the employee to avoid paying overtime pay to the employee or otherwise does not provide proper compensation to an employee.

Time theft occurs when an employee is paid for work that he or she did not perform. This may be because he or she is claiming hours that he or she did not work, not performing work while at work or otherwise receiving compensation for which they are not entitled. There are many ways that time theft may occur, such as the following:

Adding Time

Employees may write on timesheets for more hours than they actually worked, such as claiming to have arrived at work at 7:45 a.m. when they arrived at 8 a.m. Others may wait around after their shift so that they can punch out later and get paid even though they are not technically working.
A common way around time clocks is for an employee to ask a friend to punch him or her in or out when that person is not on site.

Extended Breaks

Another way that employees may get paid for time to which they are not entitled is by taking long breaks or lunches that are paid by employers. Likewise, employees who take smoke breaks may take more frequent and longer breaks.

Not Working

Employees may claim time for work while they are performing other tasks, such as chatting with friends, taking personal phone calls, taking unauthorized breaks, falling asleep at work, shopping online, playing games on their smart devices, checking personal email or using social media.


Some employees commit time theft by lying about their time cards or swipe cards. They may claim to have forgotten or lost their swipe card so that they can add time to a paper time sheet.


In other situations, an employee may be away from the site for a work-related task, such as business travel, traveling to a customer’s home or running an errand for an employer. While away form the primary job site, the employee may complete a personal errand, stop for coffee, eat or otherwise take longer for personal reasons while gone for work purposes.

Preventing Time Theft

There may be a number of ways that employers can prevent time theft. Having checks and balances in place can help avoid these problems. Some ways to curtail such theft include:

Add Biometric Measures

Many newer time clocks and similar devices have added biometrics to try to keep employees more honest. These clocks may read fingerprints, handprints, irises or faces to ensure that the person clocking in is actually the person at the time clock.

Install Cameras

Employers may install cameras in the workplace near the location where they clock in. These cameras may record instances when an employee is clocking in for a buddy or intentionally delaying clocking out after performing his or her work duties.

Develop Clear Policies

An employer can work with a business lawyer to develop clear policies regarding clocking in and out procedures. These policies may be incorporated into employment handbooks and reminder signs by the clocking in area. These policies should also outline what type of conduct is prohibited, such as using a cell phone for personal reasons. It is important that employees fully understand their work-related duties and know what they should be doing when there are lags in work.

Establish Consequences

Employers may also develop disciplinary procedures to deal with time theft. This may include a progressive model in which the employer gives a verbal warning, followed by a written warning, followed by suspension and concluding in termination. Some employers may deduct stolen time from the employee’s pay. However, some employers may be concerned about taking this action and being accused of stealing the employee’s time.

Contact an Employment Law Lawyer for Help with Your Time Theft Claim

If you are suspected of time theft and think that your employer may take action against you or you are an employer who believes employee time theft is an issue at your business, it is important to talk to an employment law lawyer. He or she can explain your rights under the circumstances and the steps that you can take to protect your claim.


Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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