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Employment Law/Late arrival and if it relates to timesheet fraud

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Question
I work for an Architecture Firm in Chicago, IL and over the last two years my boss is constantly late with paychecks an average of 20 days.  There are a number of other reasons to protest but this is my main issue.  As the market is not turned around yet the prospects for alternate employment are few and far between, I am hesitant to leave or take legal action as it will affect the rest of the employees if a complaint is filed with the Labor Dept. so I have been dealing with the situation as best as I can.  I have been documenting as much as possible just in case.  In protest of the late pay in addition to verbally indicating that late pay is not excusable, I have been coming in an average of 1-2 hours late most days unless I have some meeting scheduled, in which case I am on time. I do not put down any more hours then I actually work during the day and I usually do not take a lunch.  As long as I am being accurate with the time sheets in terms of actual time worked does my form of protest count as time sheet fraud?  There are no posted start and end times for the work day, spoken rule is 8-5:30 with hour unpaid lunch.  The fact that I have not been fired for coming in late just shows me that my boss is taking advantage of the interest free loans I am giving him/her against my will every pay period.  What if anything can be used against me if I decide to take legal action or otherwise when it comes to my late arrival.  Thank-you in advance for your help with clarifying this for me.

Answer
Pete - You are running the risk of being terminated for violating work rules by your "protest."  Being paid irregularly does not give employees any right other than to complain to the state or federal Labor Department about this violation of the payday laws.  There is no lawsuit available to you, and employers do not even have to have a valid reason for terminating employees.  Unless you have a written employment agreement that says otherwise, you are an "at will" employee, which means you can be fired for any or no reason, as long as the reason is not in violation of anti-discrimination laws.  

You should decide whether you want to make the wage complaint or not, and follow through on the decision.  You are not harming your employer by coming in late -- you may, though, be irritating your co-workers, who (I imagine) are following the work rules.  

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Margaret M. deMarteleire

Expertise

I can answer most questions about employment law, federal or state. I am an attorney, not an HR professional, so questions about HR careers, coursework, prospects, etc. are not within my scope.

Experience

Attorney for 20 years, currently working exclusively with employment law - FLSA, FMLA, federal contracts, pay, etc.

Education/Credentials
Temple University School of Liberal Arts, BA, Rhetoric & Communication, 1982 Temple University School of Law, JD, 1990 Certificate in HR, Cornell University ILR School, 2006

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