Is It Illegal For an Employer to Clock Someone Out at Work?

photo illustration of a hand punching in a time clockIn today’s fast-paced work environment, the line between professional and personal life may often get blurred. Regardless of how busy things get, it is vital that employees get paid for the work they have done. If an employer is clocking someone out at work, they must be sure to accurately capture their employees’ hours worked.

The practice of an employer clocking employees in and out of work is often under scrutiny. Many of the questions raised have to do with its legality and potential for ethical implications.

In this article, Arnold Law Firm explores what California and federal laws say about your employer clocking you out. We also look at the potential consequences when these actions are done improperly or in violation of the law.

Understanding the Basics of Employee Time Tracking

Before diving into whether or not it is legal to clock someone out at work, it is important to remember why employee time tracking is used.

Timekeeping systems help employers accurately capture entry and exit times, breaks and attendance details. It also helps to ensure employees are paid accurate compensation.

What Wage and Hour Laws Protect Employees?

Federal laws set by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establish guidelines for minimum wage, overtime pay, and other labor practices. Under the FLSA, employers must pay employees for all hours worked, including overtime, at the appropriate rate.

California also has laws that protect employees. Your employer may be able to clock you in when you begin work and out again at the end of your day. However, they cannot do so without your consent or knowledge.

Clocking someone out without their knowledge is a violation of the law. This is especially true if it results in an employee being denied rightful compensation for hours worked.

Do Employees Get Paid for Working Off the Clock?

One of the key concerns revolves around payment for employees who work off the clock. In these situations, employees may have been asked or expected to perform tasks outside of their typical work hours.

What is Working Off the Clock?

Working off the clock is what happens when either your employer forces or expects you to work without clocking in to track your time. Sometimes working off the clock is a choice an employee may make, but without first getting authorization from an employer.

If your boss expects you to work off the clock or is forcing you to do so, he or she is in violation of California wage and hour laws. It is in violation of your rights for your employer to require you to work off the clock if you are an hourly or non-exempt employee. You can decline to work, despite your employer’s request. Unfortunately, some employers may try to retaliate against employees who do so, which is also illegal.

What if an Employee Chooses or Volunteers to Work Off the Clock?

It is always better to get authorization from your employer if your company’s policy requires it. If an employee voluntarily works off the clock, his or her employer is likely still required to pay for those hours worked.

If your employer knew or should have known that you were working off the clock but took no steps to either authorize it or stop it, you should be paid for those hours.

Could Employers Face Legal Consequences for Clocking Someone Out at Work?

If your employer clocked you out illegally, that is, without your knowledge or consent, there may be legal steps you can take. Repercussions might include back payment of unpaid wages and other penalties imposed by labor authorities. Depending on the circumstances, employers could even be facing a lawsuit.

Is It Ever Appropriate for an Employer to Clock Someone Out at Work?

There is a gray area about when it might be appropriate to log an employee out of work. For instance, if an employee is on-call and only gets paid for the time they are actively working. However, even in these cases, there are typically regulations in place to ensure that on-call employees are fairly compensated for their availability.

How Can Illegal or Unethical Clocking Practices Be Prevented?

To begin with, your employer should provide transparent and open communication with their employees. Clear policies regarding time tracking, breaks, and compensation should be established and made easily accessible to all staff members. Employees should feel empowered to report any discrepancies or concerns they have about their hours worked.

Implementing modern timekeeping technology can also help to lessen the risk of manual manipulation of time records. Biometric authentication, GPS tracking, and other digital tools are other options that can help to provide a more accurate and accountable record of employees’ work hours.

What Can You Do if You Think You Are Not Being Fully Compensated for Hours Worked?

There are steps you can take to seek the back payment you are owed, including:

  • Never agree to work off the clock; if forced, be sure to keep accurate records of those hours
  • Ask your boss to compensate you for the additional hours you worked
  • If you worked overtime, be sure that you are paid time-and-a-half for those hours
  • Contact an employment attorney for legal help

If your employer refuses to compensate you for the hours you worked, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit to seek back wages and other damages.

Contact Our Trusted Law Firm to Discuss Your Unpaid Wages

At Arnold Law Firm, we accept unpaid wage claims on a contingency basis. This means that you do not pay us any upfront costs. We have extensive knowledge of both federal and state wage and hour laws and have a history of proven results.

Contact our experienced wage and hour attorneys in Sacramento to discuss your situation. There is no obligation and no cost for this meeting.

Arnold Law Firm for legal help today. (916) 777-7777