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Employment Law/Employees missing time clock punches


Our company is having an issue with employees missing time clock punches. This necessitates me having to pull the time records every week, looking for missed punches, giving the records to the department supervisors to get the information from the employees then it gets returned to me to correct in the computer. I know everyone misses a punch every now and then and I don't mind correcting those, but we have employees who routinely miss one or both punches a day (lunch of one hour is automatically deducted). We are in Alabama, and the Alabama Dept of Labor website notes "Alabama follows federal regulations and has no separate state wage and hour laws." We have written policies that state that all non-management employees are required to punch in and out (along with very clear directions as to how to do it on the computer), as well as that employees will be fined $10 for every day that they miss a punch. I do know it's not legal and have hoped that the policy would basically get people's attention (people pay attention more if they think it will affect their pay check) and have never, ever enforced the fine. Every new employee signs a deduction authorization form when hired, stating that they give permission for deduction of funds from their paycheck including "any other monies owed to the company." We have tried warnings leading to suspensions but the employees see that as a day off, even though they aren't paid for the time they are suspended (most employees work on commission or flat rate). I'm about at the end of my rope as to how to get employees punch in and out and keep an accurate time record. Legally, what are we permitted to do and not do as far penalizing employees who routinely miss time clock punches?


My own company is a very large international operation with over 150,000 employees in the US alone, many of whom are represented by unions.  Even so, our company policy which requires employees accurately and completely to report their time every day is enforced through our standard progressive discipline programs, which vary slightly among our bargaining units, but all of them carry the ultimate threat of dismissal if an employee repeatedly violates the rule.  If your policy never calls for discipline more serious than suspension, I would suggest you revise it so that repeat offenders will face the loss of their jobs.  This is perfectly lawful so long as you enforce it consistently.

Also, I would note that there is nothing inherently unlawful about your policy of fining employees for missing punches, so long as they are still paid at least minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) for all hours they actually work.  The way to start enforcing this policy is simply to announce that as of a given date, it will be strictly enforced, and then devise a progressive discipline track whereby employees are told that after X number of missed punches they will be suspended, and after X number of suspensions they will be fired.  You and your fellow managers will need to exercise your judgment about how to construct that track to make it as effective as possible, and I would also strongly advise you to get advice from an experienced employment attorney in your area.  He or she can help you with devising and then consistently enforcing a policy that will get the attention of the employees.

I hope you find this helpful.

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Frank C. Magill


I can answer questions about any U.S. labor or employment law question. I cannot answer questions about non-US law. I am not a specialist in employee benefit law (ERISA and HIPAA) or Workers' Compensation law, but will do my best to point questioners toward good resources availabe online. Expertise includes, without limitation, EEO/Affirmative Action/Employment discrimination (Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, GINA, Fair Credit Reporting Act as applied to employment); Fair Labor Standards Act; Texas labor code; Family Medical Leave Act; employee compensation; discipline and dismissal; force reductions, severance pay programs and administration; collective bargaining, union representation, grievances and arbitration, National Labor Relations Act and National Labor Relations Board; employee handbooks; staffing; dispute resolution outside of traditional labor agreements; employee communications; employment policies and compliance programs; codes of ethics; employment or labor litigation.


30+ years experience as corporate counsel for a Fortune 100 telecom company, specializing in labor and employment law issues. In addition to providing day-to-day advice to my company's internal HR leadership and staff, I've represented the company in numerous labor arbitration cases and at the bargaining table.

Texas, Illinois and Missouri state bars

J.D. 1979, Harvard Law School. B.A., Summa Cum Laude, 1976, Illinois Wesleyan University.

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