If you’re an hourly employee, you’re probably required to punch in and out and the start and end of each work day. If you’re clocking in using an ID badge, computer login or any other electronic system, your working hours are likely automatically calculated using a timekeeping software.
Such software offers convenience. It prevents employees from having to manually enter their time each day. However, such software also has some flaws—which can disadvantage employees. In today’s article, we examine how timekeeping software can lead to wage cheating.
Many timekeeping systems automatically round your time up or down to the nearest quarter hour. This means that if you arrive for work at 7:53 a.m., the system enters your start time as 8:00 a.m. Conversely, if you clock in at 7:52 a.m., your start time would be logged as 7:45 a.m.
At first glance, it may seem that this rounding system averages out over time—never truly favoring the employer or the employee. However, many workplaces take extra steps to ensure the “the house always wins.” Some companies actively encourage their employees to arrive at work up to seven minutes early—dubbing it a “grace period.” However, employees can be penalized for arriving more than eight minutes early or staying more than eight minutes late.
Most timekeeping software automatically factors in the time employees are legally permitted to take unpaid breaks. This system assumes that each employee takes their full, allotted lunch breaks. If you work through part or all of your lunch break, however, you don’t get paid for that time. Working through lunch is an especially common phenomenon in certain care-based employment sectors—such as nursing or geriatric care.
If you want to claim back the time you worked through your break, many employers make you jump through hoops—often requiring manager approval and extra paperwork. In some workplaces, employers even openly discourage employees from overriding their break deduction. These extra hassles can be enough to discourage many employees from claiming their due pay.
Digital wage theft is an increasingly common occurrence among hourly workers. If you believe your employer is cheating you out of your wages, it’s worth consulting with an experienced employment law attorney about your options.