Oftentimes companies require employees to punch in and out on electronic time clocks, however, many companies do not have that hardware. Some employers simply rely on a self-reporting system, whereby employees keep track of their own time on timesheets. Since this type of system depends on an employee’s accuracy and honesty, it is not always a wise business decision on an employer’s part. It may be tempting for some employees to report incorrect times on their timesheets in an effort to receive pay for more hours than they actually worked, or even to avoid reprimand for showing up late to work.
Employers may be able to curtail this problem if, at the onset of employment, they clearly explain the penalties for misreporting hours on timesheets. This may be done in an employee handbook or even in a separate document that employees must sign.
Falsifying timesheets may result in not only termination of employment and perhaps civil liability, but also criminal charges. In Massachusetts, obtaining property by false pretenses with intent to defraud constitutes larceny, which carries a minimum penalty of one year imprisonment and $300 in fines. An employee may be criminally liable for larceny by obtaining pay for hours which he or she did not work, and thereby defrauding an employer.
To avoid financial loss and perhaps even the hassle of a criminal trial, employers should clearly set forth a company policy regarding dishonesty in reporting hours worked. Moreover, as a deterrent, the policy should inform workers of potential civil and criminal liability for falsifying timesheets.
Additionally, and employer should not threaten to take criminal action against an employee unless he actually intends to do so and follows through. The more likely action would termination, and if blatant enough, possible civil suit.