Timekeeping Software Helps Companies Cheat Their Workers

By Elizabeth C. Tippett, Assistant Professor, School of Law, University of Oregon — There are a lot of ways employers can manipulate your time using timekeeping software, some of which are legal and others highly questionable.

If you work on an hourly basis, you may not have given much thought to what happens to your hours after you log out of your workstation. You might assume those hours are simply converted into dollars and show up on your paycheck.

About 60 percent of U.S. employees are paid on an hourly basis. To keep track of those hours, most employers use some form of electronic system. This add up to a mountain of data, so employers use software to manage that data before turning it over to payroll.

In collaboration with fellow researchers Charlotte Alexander and Zev Eigen, I examined 13 different timekeeping software programs by reviewing software tutorials, technical support materials and promotional information. This gave us some insight into the features available through the software. Our findings were recently published in the Yale Journal of Law and Technology.

These features allow employers to alter your time in a variety of unexpected ways, which we describe below.

Timekeeping software, explained via animated gifs.

Archaic rules

First a little background on why software companies include these tools in their programs and why employers are able to take advantage of them.

The federal regulations that govern how employers manage hourly records are hopelessly outdated. They were drafted by the Department of Labor in 1987 and did not contemplate the ease and scale with which timekeeping records can be modified.

The recordkeeping rules were crafted around paper-based records and still refer to time “cards” and “microfilm.” As much as the old punch card machine is seared into our collective memories, most employers now use sophisticated digital systems. Employees log in and out through a computer, badge reader or smartphone. These logins are synced with the timekeeping software. The software can then make automatic changes to the time, which supervisors can review and edit.

This has left software makers free to compete on features that ultimately serve to disadvantage workers, with little accountability.

This screenshot illustrates the process of managing employee time data. Screenshot from Kronos promotional materials., Author provided

Timekeeping software: Rounding your time away

One of the more common features we observed in software programs was known as “rounding,” in which an employee’s times are rounded to a preset increment such as the nearest 15-minute mark (1:00, 1:15, etc.).

For example, if you log in to your work station at 8:56 a.m., the software assumes you clocked in at 9 a.m., erasing four minutes of work. (Conversely, if you log in at 9:04, the software assumes you arrived at 9, giving you a bonus of four minutes.)

It seems fair in theory. But when rounding interacts with employer attendance policies, it can hurt employees. You’re more likely to log in a few minutes early to avoid getting in trouble for being late. But those extra minutes are rounded away. Rounding operates like “house odds” at a casino – you might win here or there, but in the aggregate, the house always wins.

These minutes add up. A 5-minute loss per day adds up to 100 minutes a month per worker. If that person is working full time, those minutes may also be overtime, which federal law dictates must be paid at a 50 percent premium to the hourly rate. Multiplied across an entire workforce? That’s a lot of wages that workers don’t get to keep.

Surprisingly, rounding is generally allowed under existing rules. It’s a decades-old accommodation to employers previously forced to calculate hours manually. But there’s no good reason to permit rounding when software can calculate hours to the millisecond.

Automatic break deductions

Another software feature automatically deducts scheduled breaks from an employee’s hours.

For example, if you’re scheduled to take a 30-minute lunch break, that time can be deducted from your hours automatically, regardless of your actual time records. (Here’s an example of an employer’s automatic break deduction setup.)

There is a certain efficiency in this feature, and its legality depends on the circumstances in which it is applied. But like rounding, it is structured as a form of house odds. The presumption works in the employer’s favor, and the employee usually must engage in some sort of override to be paid for a missed break – like notifying a supervisor or filling in paperwork.

Supervisor ‘edits’ to employee timecards with timekeeping sfotware

Timekeeping software is commonly structured to give supervisors access to – and the authority to modify – the timecards of employees who work for them. Typically, the screen lists the names of each direct report and a button allowing them to “edit” the time.

An example of an interface for reviewing employee time. Screenshot from Patriot Software YouTube video, Author provided

There are legitimate reasons to give supervisors access to employee time, such as to correct mistakes like a missed punch. But the list of legal reasons that would justify changes to an employee’s time is pretty short.

Once an employee has already worked the hours, state and/or federal law generally requires employers to pay them. Otherwise, it’s wage theft.

Software makers seem unconcerned by the possible misuse of the software. Instead, the software present subtle behavioral cues that could legitimize unlawful wage practices. A button labeled “edit” rather than “correct” suggests that it is okay to “edit” wages for purposes other than fixing mistakes. For example, if an employee works unauthorized overtime, a supervisor may mistakenly believe those hours can be shaved because they were unauthorized.

One program allowed certain users to alter hours using a slider that could be dragged forwards or backwards. The slider was advertised next to a picture of a child on a slide, hinting that altering an employee’s hours is “fun.”

A slider is problematic from a behavioral standpoint because it allows supervisors to morally distance themselves from what they are doing. Social psychology research suggests that people are more likely to engage in unethical conduct when it is distanced from stealing – for example, stealing pens from the office versus taking money from petty cash. The experience of moving a slider on a screen feels very different from taking money out of an employee’s pocket.

Another program had a pop-up window for supervisors to review overtime hours. The window offered three options: to pay “all,” “none” or “some” of the overtime. This is also problematic from a behavioral standpoint, because users may infer from the buttons that “some” or “none” is a reasonable option. To the contrary, wage and hour law requires employers to pay for all overtime hours already worked.

A third program had a “carry forward hours” function, which moved hours from one pay period to a future period. We were at a loss to think of any legitimate use for this function and surmise that it is used to avoid overtime.

Our study looked only at the software features available on the market – we did not study how frequently the features were used for unlawful purposes. However, even if misuse of the software is extremely rare, it could add up to a lot of wage theft in the aggregate.

Have your hours ever been modified in this way? You may not know. Many of the software programs were generally not set up to notify employees when supervisors make changes to their timecards.

Timekeeping software: Employees should know what happens to their hours

The status quo – in which software is used to alter employee hours in numerous ways without their knowledge – hurts everyone. Employees lose out on earned wages. Employers may benefit in the short term but they also risk big wage and hour lawsuits when small problems aren’t detected early.

Some software programs are more transparent than others (or can be customized to be more transparent). This graphic illustrates a program that allows managers to ‘accept’ or ‘reject’ an employee’s time, but editing can be done only by the employee. Screenshot from BigTime website video

It need not be this way. A few of the programs we reviewed were structured to involve employees in any managerial edits to their timecards. Other software programs offered “add-on” features providing meaningful notification to employees, but these features are apparently rarely purchased by employers.

More transparent software would satisfy the employer’s interests in efficiency while also allowing supervisors and employees to hold each other accountable for the integrity of the time records. Record-keeping rules should also be updated to reflect current realities. Employers with transparent systems should be rewarded, while bad actors punished.

Ultimately, employees should demand, and employers should select better software. Software makers will respond.

 

This article originally appeared on The Conversation
List your business in the premium web directory for free This website is listed under Human Resources Directory

214 Responses to Timekeeping Software Helps Companies Cheat Their Workers

  1. Pingback: Cialis great britain

  2. Pingback: Cialis tablets

  3. Pingback: Cialis prices

  4. Pingback: Viagra 5mg prix

  5. Pingback: Cialis purchasing

  6. Pingback: Viagra generique

  7. Pingback: Cialis generico online

  8. Pingback: Viagra 20mg prix en pharmacie

  9. Pingback: Discount cialis

  10. Pingback: Buy cialis

  11. Pingback: Cialis 5 mg

  12. Pingback: Cialis coupon

  13. Pingback: writeessay

  14. Pingback: Cialis online

  15. Pingback: Cialis generic

  16. Pingback: buy cialis online

  17. Pingback: tadalafil 40 mg

  18. Pingback: cialis pills

  19. Pingback: cialis pills for sale

  20. Pingback: cialis tablets australia

  21. Pingback: cost cialis 20mg

  22. Pingback: generic cialis 20mg

  23. Pingback: generic cialis available

  24. Pingback: generic cialis tadalafil

  25. Pingback: generic cialis tadalafil uk

  26. Pingback: tadalafil generic

  27. Pingback: tadalafil generic best price

  28. Pingback: tadalafil without a doctor prescription

  29. Pingback: cialis generic

  30. Pingback: cialis generic name

  31. Pingback: cialis generic availability

  32. Pingback: cialis generic availability 2018

  33. Pingback: cialis generic prices

  34. Pingback: cialis generic tadalafil

  35. Pingback: cialis generic pharmacy

  36. Pingback: levitra generic

  37. Pingback: sildenafil citrate

  38. Pingback: levofloxacin 750 mg

  39. Pingback: viagra 100mg

  40. Pingback: sildenafil 100mg

  41. Pingback: azithromycin 250 mg

  42. Pingback: augmentin 875 mg

  43. Pingback: amiodarone 200 mg

  44. Pingback: lipitor generic

  45. Pingback: best price for viagra

  46. Pingback: diflucan 150 mg

  47. Pingback: levitra 20 mg

  48. Pingback: viagra pills

  49. Pingback: simvastatin 20 mg

  50. Pingback: cialis 20mg tablets prices

  51. Pingback: levitra 20mg best price

  52. Pingback: biaxin antibiotic

  53. Pingback: cost of biaxin antibiotic

  54. Pingback: biaxin coupon

  55. Pingback: biaxin coupons

  56. Pingback: fluoxetine hcl

  57. Pingback: fluoxetine 20 mg

  58. Pingback: prozac generic

  59. Pingback: prozac medication

  60. Pingback: fluoxetine 10 mg

  61. Pingback: alprostadil

  62. Pingback: alprostadil price

  63. Pingback: buy cialis

  64. Pingback: cialis oral jelly

  65. Pingback: 2019

  66. Pingback: sildenafil 100mg coupon

  67. Pingback: cialis

  68. Pingback: cialis coupon

  69. Pingback: cialis 20mg

  70. Pingback: levitra

  71. Pingback: generic cialis

  72. Pingback: cialis online

  73. Pingback: tadalafil 5mg

  74. Pingback: tadalafil 20mg

  75. Pingback: viagra tablets

  76. Pingback: sildenafil

  77. Pingback: tadalafil

  78. Pingback: cialis dosage

  79. Pingback: cialis prices

  80. Pingback: cialis tablets

  81. Pingback: viagra vs cialis

  82. Pingback: generic viagra

  83. Pingback: viagra connect

  84. Pingback: viagra without doctor prescription

  85. Pingback: viagra natural

  86. Pingback: cialis vs viagra

  87. Pingback: tadalafil 20 mg

  88. Pingback: cialis 20 mg

  89. Pingback: cialis 5 mg

  90. Pingback: cheap cialis

  91. Pingback: cialis coupons

  92. Pingback: cialis canada

  93. Pingback: viagra

  94. Pingback: buy viagra

  95. Pingback: website

  96. Pingback: website

  97. Pingback: viagra online

  98. Pingback: viagra prices

  99. Pingback: viagra generic

  100. Pingback: generic viagra 100mg

  101. Pingback: viagra coupons

  102. Pingback: cheap viagra

  103. Pingback: generic viagra available

  104. Pingback: buy viagra online

  105. Pingback: viagra tablet

  106. Pingback: sildenafil 20 mg

  107. Pingback: sildenafil 100

  108. Pingback: example.org.17

  109. Pingback: female viagra

  110. Pingback: sildenafil tablets

  111. Pingback: prednisone 20 mg

  112. Pingback: buy sildenafil

  113. Pingback: 100mg viagra without a doctor prescription

  114. Pingback: natural viagra

  115. Pingback: viagra on line

  116. Pingback: over the counter viagra

  117. Pingback: sildenafil 100 mg

  118. Pingback: viagra doctor prescription

  119. Pingback: female viagra pills

  120. Pingback: viagra for men

  121. Pingback: viagra for women

  122. Pingback: viagra without a doctor prescription

  123. Pingback: sildenafil citrate 100mg

  124. Pingback: viagra without a doctor prescription usa

  125. Pingback: sildenafil generic

  126. Pingback: viagra medicine online order

  127. Pingback: viagra without doctor prescription usa

  128. Pingback: cialis generico

  129. Pingback: cialis generika

  130. Pingback: tadalafila

  131. Pingback: amitriptyline low dose

  132. Pingback: baclofen liquid

  133. Pingback: escitalopram 10mg for sleep

  134. Pingback: prednisone and bone loss

  135. Pingback: generic levitra

  136. Pingback: levitra coupon

  137. Pingback: dutch women viagra

  138. Pingback: cialis free trial

  139. Pingback: generic viagra online pharmacy

  140. Pingback: cialis over the counter at walmart

  141. Pingback: pfizer generic viagra

  142. Pingback: cialis side effects

  143. Pingback: sildenafil 20 mg tablet vs viagra

  144. Pingback: sophia viagra

  145. Pingback: viagra dosage recommendations

  146. Pingback: viagra for sale

  147. Pingback: viagra online canada pharmacy

  148. Pingback: cialis generic tadalafil 10mg

  149. Pingback: cialis generic tadalafil 60mg

  150. Pingback: cialis generic tadalafil walmart

  151. Pingback: cialis generic tadalafil for sale

  152. Pingback: cialis generic tadalafil india

  153. Pingback: viagra sex

  154. Pingback: cialis prices 10mg

  155. Pingback: viagra side effects

  156. Pingback: cialis prices 100mg

  157. Pingback: viagra without a doctor prescription from canada

  158. Pingback: cialis prices 20mg

  159. Pingback: cialis prices 5mg

  160. Pingback: generic cialis tadalafil 20mg

  161. Pingback: cialis prices walmart

  162. Pingback: generic cialis pricing

  163. Pingback: best place to buy cialis online without script

  164. Pingback: generic viagra sildenafil citrate

  165. Pingback: buy cialis canada online

  166. Pingback: buy cialis generic tadalafil

  167. Pingback: sildenafil 100mg tablets

  168. Pingback: buy cialis online

  169. Pingback: buy cialis online without script

  170. Pingback: sildenafil 20 mg tablet

  171. Pingback: where can i buy cialis over the counter at walmart

  172. Pingback: where to buy cialis online safely

  173. Pingback: sildenafil citrate 20 mg

  174. Pingback: sildenafil coupons

  175. Pingback: sildenafil dosage

  176. Pingback: sildenafil side effects

  177. Pingback: 5mg cialis

  178. Pingback: canadian viagra

  179. Pingback: buying cialis online

  180. Pingback: canadian cialis

  181. Pingback: canadian pharmacy cialis

  182. Pingback: cost of viagra

  183. Pingback: cheap cialis generic

  184. Pingback: cheap generic cialis

  185. Pingback: generic viagra prices

  186. Pingback: cialis 5mg

  187. Pingback: herbal viagra

  188. Pingback: cialis black

  189. Pingback: levitra vs viagra

  190. Pingback: marley generic viagra

  191. Pingback: cialis cost

  192. Pingback: cialis daily

  193. Pingback: online pharmacy viagra

  194. Pingback: cialis for sale

  195. Pingback: online viagra

  196. Pingback: cialis from canada

  197. Pingback: real viagra

  198. Pingback: cialis generic canada

  199. Pingback: cialis on line

  200. Pingback: viagra alternative

  201. Pingback: viagra cost

  202. Pingback: cialis online pharmacy

  203. Pingback: cialis price

  204. Pingback: cialis vs levitra

  205. Pingback: viagra in action

  206. Pingback: cost of cialis

  207. Pingback: generic cialis canada

  208. Pingback: viagra online pharmacy

  209. Pingback: generic cialis online

  210. Pingback: viagra pill

  211. Pingback: generic for cialis

  212. Pingback: viagra price

  213. Pingback: natural cialis

  214. Pingback: no prescription cialis