Altering an employee’s time record, or being responsible for approving a time record can bring personal liability. Keep in mind, it is not just the company that is at risk. Your personal assets can be attacked to pay off a judgement be it on a state or federal level.
From a federal perspective, The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) permits employees to sue their manager or supervisor, executives, or human resources personnel for personal liability for altering time records.
A common occurrence is supervisors encouraging off the clock work or simply altering a time record when an employee forgets to clock in or out. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor announced that they are receiving more and more complaints about employees being forced to work through their breaks.
The law is very clear that for breaks to be unpaid, employees must be completely relieved of their duties. Do not let employees eat lunch at their desks. Some states, such as California, require employers to pay a one hour rate of compensation as a penalty for these types of violations.
In a recent case an unsuspecting employer who owned group homes for the disabled routinely deducted eight hours from the checks of the “living assistants” because each of these individuals received two 4 hour breaks. The managers were responsible for the deductions and the CEO signed off on the adjustments. The real problem here was that the employees could not leave the facility that each worked at and they had to call in every hour during their break. Clearly these actions made no sense.
The bad news is that the CEO was held personally to the tune of $500,000 for back wages and another $155,000 as a penalty. It should also be noted that in California there is no longer a corporate protection for certain wage & hour violations. The aggrieved employee can “pierce the corporate veil” to have his or her judgement satisfied.
There are employers who have their employees sign off on all changes to their time records but remember, if the adjustment is illegal, then having them sign off on it will not matter. Employers and managers must understand that “messing” with an employee’s compensation through illegal deductions and/or alterations, will more than likely be viewed by state & federal agencies as a violation ultimately bringing harsh penalties.