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Computerized Time Clocks Susceptible to 'Manager Attack' 885

crem_d_genes writes "It appears to be business as usual for some chain stores to delete minutes from employees' time cards to save on the bottom line. The practice, while illegal and officially 'prohibited' by company policies is widely admitted as flourishing. Middle management is especially pressured to engage in the practice known as shaving time - 'a simple matter of computer keystrokes' - or another practice, that of shuffling hours between weeks, which is also prohibited by federal law. A number of lawsuits are being initiated because of admitted and alleged violations."
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Computerized Time Clocks Susceptible to 'Manager Attack'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:37PM (#8762546)
    This is normal practice at Wal-Mart Supercenter in Kilgore, Texas. The night managers edit people time in the computer system all the time to ensure that overtime does not happen.
    • by arkanes ( 521690 ) <arkanes@gma i l . c om> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:45PM (#8762602) Homepage
      This happened at a Kohls where I worked and when it came out the store manager was asked to resign. There was a _lot_ of pressure on her to eliminate overtime, so I guess it's kind of unfair to her, but I don't have that much sympathy.
      • The proper way to eliminate overtime is to tell employees that they're not allowed to work greater than 40 hours... and tell anybody going over that they have to stop working at their asigned time.

        If a "you've got to get this done" order comes in conflict with the "you've got to stop on time" order, then the employee is already screwed.
        • by KDan ( 90353 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:08PM (#8762747) Homepage
          The proper way to eliminate overtime is to hire enough people to get the work done without overtime...

          • by Keiran Halcyon ( 550292 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:57PM (#8763066)
            Spoken like someone without a grasp of what can sometimes cause overtime to occur in a retail environment.

            Overtime isn't always something you plan out and have happen. Sometimes things go wrong, or emergencies occur and people stay late. Are you suggesting all stores should hire 6-12+ people and simply keep them on retainer on the off chance that they're needed for those 2-4 hours a week most overtimes accrue to?
            • by KDan ( 90353 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @05:20PM (#8763598) Homepage
              Bullshit. If things go wrong once in a long while, then fair enough. Sometimes you have to do some overtime to make it all happen in a crisis. If you have a 2-4 hour/employee crisis every week, you're just an incompetent manager with no planning skills.

            • by sphealey ( 2855 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @05:26PM (#8763629)
              Overtime isn't always something you plan out and have happen. Sometimes things go wrong, or emergencies occur and people stay late. Are you suggesting all stores should hire 6-12+ people and simply keep them on retainer on the off chance that they're needed for those 2-4 hours a week most overtimes accrue to?
              OK, that's fine. But these are hourly employees, not Kozlowski-style CEOs with million dollar bonuses. Why not, say, pay them the overtime that law and morality entitles them to?

              For many of these people, BTW, the penalties they will have to pay their babysitters for picking up late (which can be as high as $1/minute, DOUBLING every minute) will vastly outweigh any additional amount they earn from unscheduled, forced overtime.


              • by Phronesis ( 175966 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @08:37PM (#8764783)
                If it's really $1/minute, doubling every minute, time and a half wouldn't even begin to cover the late fees. If the babysitters charge a quintillion dollars (about 100,000 times the gross domestic product of the United States) for being an hour late, it doesn't really matter whether you were paid $8 or $12 for that hour.

                Let's lay off Walmart and prosecute the babysitters. They make Dennis Kozlowski, Ken Lay, and Jack Welch look like Mother Teresa by comparison.

            • by Monkelectric ( 546685 ) <> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @06:01PM (#8763852)
              Spoken like someone without a grasp of what can sometimes cause overtime to occur in a retail environment.

              Spoken like lower management who doesn't know how business works :) The problem is not that workers refuse to work overtime, its they won't do it for free. Overtime pay is supposed to be an incentive NOT to overwork your employees. Every place I've ever worked for (from, subway, to walmart, to universities after I got my degree) have had the same policy, "We do not pay overtime."

              Here's why. Say you own a trucking company, and theres a long stretch of road called "interstate 1" where the speed limit is 55MPH. For arguments sake, lets say the road is 55 miles long. Said trucking company wants to lower costs -- they want drivers to traverse the road quicker. Now, how to write the company policy for that?

              Statement 1: "Drivers will maintain an average speed of 75 MPH on interstate 1."
              Statement 2: "Drivers will take no longer then 40 minutes to traverse interstate 1."

              Whats the difference? Statement 1 is ordering employees to commit crimes -- civil and criminal penalties may ensue. Statement 2? The implication is that employees should break the law to meet the companies demands -- much harder argument for a prosecuter to make.

              Its the *EXACT* same thing with the overtime rule, the rule is designed to force managers to shave time. They can't say "Shave time" so they give a strict limit on how many hours the store pay which is far below the number actually needed. If a manager refuses to shave time, then fire him and find someone who will.

              As far as tricks, this one is old school. What i've been seeing alot of lately, is companies compensating employees with comp time, but then refusing to ever allow employees to use the comp time. It's a much better scam because its very hard to prove you had no intention of allowing them to use their comp time. If an employee insists, just fire them, oops their comp time is gone to :)

              • by iamhassi ( 659463 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @07:40PM (#8764501) Journal
                If a manager refuses to shave time, then fire him and find someone who will.

                which is why I'm glad there was a $1.5 million settlement against Taco Bell last year []. What if the jury only awarded what was taken? Then companies would just keep doing it and consider the lawsuits just part of doing business.

                Instead they should make every lawsuit worth at least 10,000 times more than the money taken. That should make other companies think twice about stealing from employees.

                This story is a great example of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.

            • by NailedSaviour ( 765586 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @06:43PM (#8764137)
              I don't know what he was suggesting but my take on this is that the companies involved either do exactly what you suggest or pay the overtime that the damn staff work. There is NO excuse for deliberately shaving hours off the books. After all, if the staff stole so much as one chocolate bar you can bet they will be sacked before they can blink. It cuts both ways.
          • by tekiegreg ( 674773 ) * <> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @04:06PM (#8763129) Homepage Journal
            Well there's 2 types of overtime that our difficult to prevent. 1) The emergency or surge situation. What do you do when the store gets more work than it is normally capable of handling?
            2) The "whoops I'm 15 minutes late in clocking out" situation, where an employee may not have really worked any overtime, but maybe got a hair sidetracked on his way to the timeclock, or just didn't realize what time it was, his watch was out of sync with the time-clock, etc...
        • The problem with that is also that some states (here in CA for example) say that overtime occurs on the daily level. Anything beyond 8 hours in one day is overtime. So you could only work 24 hours in one week, but still get 16 hours of over time.
    • by Nea Ciupala ( 581705 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:27PM (#8762861)
      ... and punished by jail time for those who do it? How is stealing an employee's time any different than walking from Walmart with an item in you pocket?
      • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @05:30PM (#8763649) Homepage
        It is, and it is [].

        Willful violations may be prosecuted criminally and the violator fined up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:45PM (#8762952)
      At one call center I worked at, one of my duties was to go through _every_ timecard, every night, and change the time that was worked. [For example, if somebody was logged into a call that didn't run that day, all that time was deleted from the time worked. Likewise, bathroom breaks were deleted from the time worked. There were about 20 such things to check for.] I spent roughly five hours per day, six days a week, to try to save the company paying people for work that wasn't done. They later had to pay out roughly $2 000 000 in back pay, and other damages. But that court case did _not_ change their written policy. [The company is not out of business.

      At a different call center, we had time cards, but no one ever used them. So the manager would simply see who was present each day, and fill in a form saying we worked our five hour shift, regardless of the hours we actually worked --- which was usually somewhere between four and four and a half hours. If he paid us for 5 hours, and we were only there for an hour, his attitude was "Don't worry about it." [And no, that time did not have to be made up.]

      At a third call center I worked at, we would be penalized if we worked overtime. Management was supposed to hand us a sheet every morning, showing our worked hours this week, and the time to leave that day. Three violations, and you were terminated. [The major problem is that managers seldom showed us the sheets in the morning, so more often than not, we would come back from break, and be told to sign out for the day. The next week we would get a verbal warning, because we took a break that we were not entitled to.] [That company is now also out of business.]

  • by James A. M. Joyce ( 764379 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:37PM (#8762548) Journal
    ...if it actually offered a potential recourse to this employee abuse. I think most of us already know that many employers will do almost anything to keep you from punching in long enough to be classified as "full time" - but what can we do about it?
    • by bsd4me ( 759597 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:39PM (#8762560)

      Keep handwritten records in ink of your time in a journal along with your daily activities.

      • To what end? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PollGuy ( 707987 )
        So you can sue and use your journal as evidence? Who's going to believe that it is more reliable than the computer records?
        • Re:To what end? (Score:5, Informative)

          by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:59PM (#8762685)
          Your journal would be just as valid as their computerized journal as a created-at-the-time record that can be taken into evidence. At this point, the civil case would turn into "your word against their's" so it wouldn't complete the case on its own, but at least you're off to a good start.
        • Re:To what end? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by KarmaMB84 ( 743001 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:04PM (#8762713)
          If the company is forced to defend their computer record keeping system and it is found that a manager with something to gain can manually alter records, then that paper and ink journal becomes much more believable. If the system does not log manual alterations, it begins to look downright unreliable and easily tampered with.
        • Re:To what end? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ePhil_One ( 634771 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:09PM (#8762751) Journal
          So you can sue and use your journal as evidence? Who's going to believe that it is more reliable than the computer records?

          Unless there is an audit trail every time the manager edits the time, I'd say most folks would believe the handwritten records. Only if there was no easy way to "adjust" hours would computer record be more credible.

          Problem is, many folks will forget to punch in or out, punch in before they change, or otherwise try to game the system in their favor. Therefore a manager needs a easy method to account for this, wether it is done for simple forgetfulness or in an outright attempt to defraud the employer.

          What we have here is folks seeking a technology solution to an HR problem. Even if you find a perfect technology solution, a manager can still intimidate employees into punching out early, working off the clock, etc. so long as there folks desparate for work, employers of last resort will try this; note that this ensures they get the cruft of the labor pool, will offer poor service, have employee theft problem. Turns into a vicious cycle, since this will reinforce their view that employyees are a shifty lot that deserve this abuse....

        • Re:To what end? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Jeremi ( 14640 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:22PM (#8762829) Homepage
          I think the real solution is that the time clock should print out receipts for the employees when they check out.
    • by ChodeMonkey ( 65149 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:07PM (#8762741) Homepage
      Demand what McDonalds does (according to the article). Every day after you punch out you get a computer printout of when you logged in and when you logged out. You can keep that paper and use it as evidence of when and how long you worked. Very simple.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:11PM (#8762761)
      ..if it actually offered a potential recourse to this employee abuse. I think most of us already know that many employers will do almost anything to keep you from punching in long enough to be classified as "full time" - but what can we do about it?

      How about: stop giving sanction to slavemasters by volunteering yourself as a slave. Stop participating in the aspects of society you find abbhorent or wrong.

      Most people will patently reject this solution. Either the ideal is too precious to give up in the face of harsh reality, the person has mired themselves in debt and this is not an option, or they fear peer pressure from family and friends. But those are personal problems.

      This problem is centuries old and its root has reached critical mass. If you don't want to comply, and you don't want to drop out, the only option remaining is revolt. And did you really expect to find a blueprint for revolution in a magazine article?
  • by Faust7 ( 314817 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:37PM (#8762552) Homepage
    As a former member of the Air Force military police, as a play-by-the-rules guy, Drew Pooters said he was stunned by what he found his manager doing in the Toys "R" Us store in Albuquerque.

    What exactly was a former member of the Air Force military police doing working for Toys 'R' Us in anything less than a managerial capacity?
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:37PM (#8762553) Homepage
    Anybody who tried that in a union shop would have strike that day.
  • by Qrlx ( 258924 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:39PM (#8762561) Homepage Journal
    when i worked at the Burger King the system recorded time in 15-minute chunks. You could sign out for your break at 12:38 and your time card would show 12:45. So you could "get over on the man" if you timed it right.

    Of course if you're working at the Burger King the Man has pretty much had his way with you already, but that's a different story.
    • Re:work the clock (Score:3, Insightful)

      by LostCluster ( 625375 ) *
      when i worked at the Burger King the system recorded time in 15-minute chunks. You could sign out for your break at 12:38 and your time card would show 12:45. So you could "get over on the man" if you timed it right.

      Of course, somebody who stands by the timeclock from 12:37:43 to 12:38:00 is not actually working... so in this case it'd be legal for the manager to correct the stop time to 12:37:43 and therefore take advantage of the downward rounding to shave a quarter hour.
      • Re:work the clock (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        True... but once you learn the tricks of the time clock you can use them to your advantage with out standing in front of it.

        When I am ready to go home for the day, it takes me roughly 30 seconds to log out, collect personal items from my desk and stand up. Another 75 seconds are spent walking from my desk to the time clock. In winter an extra 30 seconds can be added to account for retrieving and putting on my coat.

        Thus if I'm sure to start this process no earlier then 5:05:15 on my computer clock then I a
    • Re:work the clock (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jeffy124 ( 453342 )
      the Kmart I worked at in high school was the same way. The store would close for the night at 10 and people were known to huddle around the clock until it read 10:08, adding an extra quarter hour onto their checks. We were able to get away with it because the closing process would take around 4-7 minutes anyway, and that couldn't start until the clock at the front desk read 10pm.

      This really only benefited the PT'ers, as the FT's were limited to 40 hours unless management approved overtime for the employe
      • Re:work the clock (Score:5, Interesting)

        by C10H14N2 ( 640033 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:24PM (#8762843)
        With a few exceptions (those paid over $27.50/hour IIRC), in California at least employers are required to pay ALL overtime, approved or not. The law actually reads that if the employer suspects the employee is working overtime but hasn't reported it, they must pay for it. This sounds absurd until you hear about these cases where people are encouraged to work "off the clock" in various ways subtle and blatant and then leave it off the time sheets. My mother works for a major Catholic hospital (the most evil and draconian organizations on the planet IMO) and they "encourage" people to do this on a daily basis. They also encourage employees to formally "donate time" so their compensation can be automatically deducted from payroll and credited back to the hospital. In the end, many employees effectively are 20hr/week slaves. Praise Jesus...
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) * <> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:39PM (#8762562)

    I used to work in retail, a middle sized national UK chain, and I can safely say that these happenings are not just US centric. They happen in this country too, and probably whereever there are large chains.

    I was there a year before they brought in the electronic swipe card time keeping system, and I never think they saved much money with it anyway, as right up until I left, they were still employing a woman 2 days a week to chase up missed swipes, double checking stuff etc.

    The company only paid you in increments of 15 minutes, and one of their favourite passtimes was to shave off enough minutes from your swipe in and swipe out so that it looked like those periods only consisted of 14 minutes and voila, half an hour saved on that day for that employee. Of course, us employees caught on and brought the issue up with the store manager who of course denied it all.

    I did some research into the time management system, and discovered that one of its features was a debug trail, covering all activities within the system. So, one day when I had access to the system, I changed the windows shortcut to turn on this debug trail, and noone was any the wiser about it.

    6 months later, we had a store visit by a group of people on the board of directors. I waited until they had done the rounds, and the store manager was glowing with pride etc, when I interrupted them to ask them a question. The question I asked was "So, is it national company policy to rip off your workers?", and when asked to explain, I did so.

    Of course, they denied all knowledge, and the store manager was ready to throw me out there and then, until I said "Well, I can prove it.", and prove it I did. The VIPs, who later it turned out, knew nothing of this, took a copy of this file, and had it verified by the people who sold the time management system (luckily, they had checksums on all activities within the file, so they could conclusivly say that it was not faked, and every action produced the correct checksum in the correct order).

    The store manager got sacked, as did a number of others in the chain who were doing a similiar thing, and all workers in these stores got paid an extra 2 weeks of pay. I took the money and left the company, to join my current employers who Im very happy at, outside of retail :)

  • by cygnus ( 17101 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:40PM (#8762566) Homepage
    and there was nothing covert about it. i was given 1/2 an hour after the doors were locked at the donut shop i worked at to clean the whole place and set things up for the next shift. if i took longer than that, the time was taken away from me. which meant that i had to do some of these duties while still open. which meant that sometimes i had to piss people off. if someone came in at 11:50 PM looking for donuts, sometimes they'd all already be thrown away (along with the coffee, too) so i could do the dishes before the doors closed.

    tough shit... if the company's not going to pay me to do my job properly, the customer's going to suffer. not me...

  • by base_chakra ( 230686 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:40PM (#8762568)
    My former employer was notorious for this kind of manipulation. They assume that employees falsify their times, and thus feel justified in "correcting" hypothetical discrepencies.
  • by QEDog ( 610238 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:41PM (#8762571)
    It is not only common practice to delete minutes, but in fact last night someone delete ONE WHOLE HOUR. I'm sooo pissed.
  • Scott Adams (Score:4, Funny)

    by dolo666 ( 195584 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:41PM (#8762576) Journal
    Scott Adams would predict that minutes would never have been added in the first place if Dogbert was somehow involved. Shaving them off only makes the company look guilty; but if they never existed... **WAAAAG** !!!
  • True (Score:5, Informative)

    by Mister Transistor ( 259842 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:41PM (#8762577) Journal
    A former roommate used to work at the local Radio Shack. He told me what they were doing was making him work 15 hours one week and 60 the other. Since RS uses a 2-week pay period, the total hours for the 2 weeks were under 80, so no paid overtime. This is illegal as all hell. I told him this and he contacted the labor board in our state and filed a report. The law (at least here in my state) requires employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime for any time past 40 hours _per week_, irrespective of whatever pay periods the employer may use. I was also told that most of the other RS's in the area were also pulling this crap.

    • Re:True (Score:3, Interesting)

      by IpSo_ ( 21711 )
      I don't know about the US, but in British Columbia, Canada there is something called the "averaging agreement" where employees _and_ employers agree in writing to working XX (ie: 60) hours one week, and XX (ie: 15) hours another week without overtime pay. Its perfectly legal as long as both parties agree to it in writing _before_.

      I would be very surprised if the US didn't have something similar. Think about all the people that work on oil rigs. 2 weeks, 2 weeks off. Thats how they usually do it, they have
      • Re:True (Score:5, Informative)

        by randyest ( 589159 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:24PM (#8762842) Homepage
        Surprise! The USDOL doesn't allow averaging [] for hourly, non-exempt employees -- ever. I suppose one might arrange such a deal, and as long as neither party complains ever, then the DOL would be none the wiser. But if the employee ever decided he or she didn't like it, the employer would be in trouble. That'd be a bad agreement for the employer, in the long run.

        Contracts that violate federal law, even when agreed to by both parties, are unenforceable.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:14PM (#8762788)
      That was basically RadioShack corporate policy, at least when I worked there in the late 90s early 00s. I worked at five stores in three different states, each state in a different district, and each district manager had the same one week heavy/one week light advice. When one of the kids working at one of my stores in Missourri challenged him on it, he said that since radioshack (Tandy at that time) is based in Texas, Texas law applies, and Texas law allows that.

      Which is, of course, total bullshit- even if Texas law allows that, Texas employment law doesn't cover a kid working in St. Louis. RadioShack specializes in screwing employees. Don't get me started on the commission-stealing managers I had as an assistant. Fuck RS.
  • by syphax ( 189065 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:43PM (#8762589) Journal
    Unions are many things, but above all, they are a reaction to bad management.

    Engaging in what is essentially part-time slavery is bad management; those who engage in it, or look the other way, are criminals.
  • by PingXao ( 153057 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:43PM (#8762591)
    Employees in the U.S. have so few rights. There's no other way, I know, but when employers stoop this low then something needs to be done. If I hire you and am paying you then I want every last minute of work out of you. There's nothing immoral about that. When I hire you and decide to secretly not pay you for some of the work you've done then I am guilty of something akin to slavery.

    What's the punishment when an employee steals from his employer? What's good for the goose is good for the gander. I say it's time we start holding companies responsible for their actions. In particular, it should be easier to pierce the corporate veil than it is today. It would be nice if they paid taxes, too.too.
    • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:52PM (#8762647)
      Correct. When an employee's timecard is negatively being corrected, the employer should send the employee a memo explaining "Your shift of 8am to 4pm on 4/2/04 was against company policy because you did not take a 30-minute lunch break as required by state law. As a result, we are deducting 30 minutes of pay."
      • The employee then takes the piece of paper to the labor board and tells them "not only did I not get to take a lunch - and I tried - but then they didn't pay me for all the time I worked that day, and here is the proof." Then, employer gets raked over the coals. Hence, issuing a memo like this is about the stupidest thing they could possibly do. It might be right, but it's not a good idea from where they are sitting.
    • something akin to slavery

      I'd call it simple theft. Try to pretty it up with names like "shaving" or whatever, but it still boils down to good 'ol garden variety stealing. I'm not sure why this is being handled in civil court instead of criminal court. They had motif, intent and opportunity and should be facing the same sanctions as employees caught boosting goods out of the warehouse.

      You're totally right about responsibility. As long as some groups can have their criminal behavior regulated to civ

    • by randyest ( 589159 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:31PM (#8762875) Homepage
      Employees in the U.S. have so few rights

      Eh? Ever hear of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) []? I'd say those are some pretty good rights, including the ability to get back pay (with penalties and interest) long after a bad deed is done. Please don't take a story about some bad companies (who are no doubt headed for trouble on this) and make broad, sweeping US-bashing statements that aren't really true. There are plenty of valid points on which to bash the US, but I don't think this is one of them. The rights are there. The companies in this story violated them, and are subject to penalties because of it. Read the site -- the punishment can be tough, including prison time:

      violations may be prosecuted criminally and the violator fined up to $10,000. A second conviction may result in imprisonment.

      And what's that about companies not paying taxes? What color is the sky on your planet?
  • by LostCluster ( 625375 ) * on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:44PM (#8762597)
    Under most state laws, any shift longer than a certain number of hours that crosses Noontime requires that the employee have a 30 minute lunch break.

    This would mean that having a timecard that says 8am to 4pm with no breaks is just as illegal as inserting the 30 minute break that didn't actually get taken. It's just as much the employee's responsiblity to know they have to take a lunch break as it is the manager's responsiblity to tap the worker on the sholder and shut them down and force them to take the break.

    We've got offsetting fouls on the play...
  • Ugh (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tirinal ( 667204 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:45PM (#8762603)
    I think the fact that middle management has nothing better to do than attempt to halt the clocks for a couple minutes every day strongly indicates that their little niche in the corporate world is just a trifle overbloated. :)

    Seriously though, I wonder at the effectiveness and pragmatism of such tactics. While it can be profitable to attempt stunts like these in large factories with hundreds of employees where a couple added minutes every day can add up, having so many people constantly look at their watches in perplexement is bound to rebound on you eventually when they sue and some overzealous jury takes the moral high ground. Not that it matters to the manager who actually perpetrated the crime since the verdict won't come out of his skin, but the company itself should probably be more vigilant in such matters. History is rife corporations being fined exhorbitant amount due to the actions of employees harassed by the bottom line.
  • Hard to detect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MukiMuki ( 692124 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:45PM (#8762608)
    Hard to detect?! I suppose the increasing drop in our nation's ability to calculate simple equations is making this more and more difficult...

    But c'mon, most people can tell if they're frickin' worked overtime and suddenly not see that extra pay1/2 in their paycheck.

    Trust me, I work 42-44 hours a week, and if even the slightest calculation on my pre-tax pay does NOT equal +40*8/hr. I'd notice pretty frickin' quick.

    Always remember, even with direct deposit, CHECK YOUR PAY STUBS. Do the simple math, if it's too tricky (let's say you don't get a flat number per hour 'n you worked a frag-ton of hours) get a bloody calculator. Hell, there's probably one on your cell phone, and there sure as heck is one on your computer. =)

    I figured they were talking like shaving 15 minutes out of the day to save a few bucks here and there, but entire rounds of overtime pay?! This isn't hour-SHAVING, this is hour-REAPING.
  • by phpm0nkey ( 768038 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:48PM (#8762622) Homepage
    Legally, employers have to pay overtime to an hourly employee if they work more than 80 hours in a two-week period. The examples in the article are mostly workers who were told they could work a certain number of hours a week, and worked more.

    This can be a sticky situation for employers. Frequently, they instruct employees that overtime is not available, people go over anyway, and the company has to pay up, whether or not they need/can afford the extra hours. That's the law.

    As long as employers are clear about how many hours people are allowed to work, they shouldn't be required to shell out for people who go over.
    • by Dun Malg ( 230075 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:34PM (#8762887) Homepage
      Frequently, they instruct employees that overtime is not available, people go over anyway, and the company has to pay up, whether or not they need/can afford the extra hours. That's the law.

      The proper solution for this is diligent managerial supervision. The problem is, these "time shaver" middle managers aren't catching this unauthorized overtime until it's too late. If it's that important, they should be out on the floor at 7 hours, 59 minutes telling the employee "you're done-- clock out". If they can't "manage" the job, perhaps they should be stock clerks.

  • by ShinyBrowncoat ( 692095 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:52PM (#8762645) Homepage
    Ms. Danner said her employees could not do all the unloading, stocking, cashier work and pricing of merchandise in the hours allotted. "The message from the district manager was, basically, `I don't care how you do it, just get it done,' " she said.

    You have to wonder if there's any way to go after the district managers and/or corporate for knowingly demanding certain performance levels that could not be reasonably achieved with the number of "billable hours" allowed.
  • by John Jorsett ( 171560 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:55PM (#8762663)
    I'm not usually in favor of increasing government regulation on business, but I'm also a big believer in transparency and traceability. It looks to me like making the issuance of paper receipts to employees mandatory would be in order. As the person quoted in the article notes, it prevents shaving from happening in businesses that have that provision. California has wisely decided to add the paper receipt to its electronic voting systems to prevent equivalent abuses.
  • by G4from128k ( 686170 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:56PM (#8762667)
    Sounds like these timecards should be written to WORM media or handled by a secure bitemporal database that can track ALL changes for audit purposes. I'm surprised the SEC, IRS, OSHA, etc. even allow critical financial records to be stored on standard PCs and applications. This is how we get fiascos like Enron, Parmalat, and Barings Bank -- its too easy to cook the books because the books are kept on insecure systems.
  • by TerryAtWork ( 598364 ) <> on Sunday April 04, 2004 @02:57PM (#8762674)
    I got it so I could arrive at work 3 minutes early - but they set the clock to be 5 minutes fast so it recorded me as 2 minutes late... As time was measured in 15 minute units, I lost 15 minutes.
  • Publix (Score:5, Interesting)

    by LupusUF ( 512364 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:06PM (#8762721)
    One thing that publix (grocery store) I worked at did was, if you punched in your code the time clock would tell you how many hours you were scheduled to work, and how many hours you actually worked for the current week (as well as previous weeks). If you knew that you had been asked to stay late, and the time clock did not show you having extra hours, you would have known something was up. Also, if you worked overtime, the manager was required to swipe his card through the machine showing that he requested you to work overtime. That way there was an extra record of your time. There was also a hard copy of schedules (including # of hours requested) posted. Of course having honest managers was a help as well. Hell, when things got busy and my manager did not think we could get it done in time...instead of messing with our hours, he would work right beside us.
  • Scumbag employers. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by miskatonic alumnus ( 668722 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:06PM (#8762729)
    Once, I did some temp work at a cookie factory. We punched a time card when we arrived, and again when we left. Their policy was that you absolutely could not be late. If you were late (even by a minute) three times, you would be terminated. Fair enough. I had to drive 16 miles to get there -- so I alloted a little extra time for variable road conditions, traffic, etc. I usually ended up arriving 5-10 minutes ahead of time. Now, by my way of thinking, this is 5-10 minutes that I could be watching t.v. or programming or whatever. So, I clocked in early. Two weeks later, when I got my paycheck, I noticed they had trimmed off all minutes prior to official beginning of the shift. Mother Fuckers! Burn me for 5-10 minutes a day. But, I dare not burn them for 3 in toto. I am delighted that their plant is now closed. Something about some upper management embezzlement!
  • Amazing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cubicledrone ( 681598 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:07PM (#8762731)
    Isn't it? The amount of time, effort and MONEY companies will invest in making sure some employee doesn't get an extra $117.42 on their minimum-wage paycheck.

  • by Trespass ( 225077 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:11PM (#8762764) Homepage
    Then management had the temerity to act surprised when they discovered a bunch of employees were stealing from the store.
  • by hopbine ( 618442 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:15PM (#8762790)
    Any of these time clocks made by Diebold's ?
  • by DragonMagic ( 170846 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:40PM (#8762916) Homepage
    I worked for an independent franchise chain of the Marco's Pizza [] restaurant a number of years ago as a delivery driver. The people who ran the local district were complete asses, and did anything they could to milk the employees of more money.

    Besides charging the employees for their uniforms, and then demanding them back at the end of their employment or they'd withhold the last paycheck (and no, you got no refund), they'd shave hours flagrantly.

    With me, since I often worked long shifts, sometimes open to close, they'd clock me out for breaks on my timecard whether or not I took any. I even went back and changed my timecard after the management did, and they'd just change it back. Some weeks, they'd even track it back more to make sure I never went into overtime.

    I got tired of this, so I waited until a friend who was training to be a manager was on duty late at night. I took my timecard with me on a delivery route to copy it before the end of the pay period, when they'd change it. My paycheck, of course, reflected a lower amount of hours, but I had proof now that they had cheated me.

    I sent the proof to my state employment board and filled out a complaint form. I had left the company before any investigation happened, but about a year after I filed, the main corporation bought out the franchise and fired nearly everyone in the management fields.

    I feel great knowing they can't cheat anyone else. I'm upset that I lost perhaps $500 in the few months I worked there. But you *can* sue, and possibly win, to get those hours back, with interest, and your state will probably investigate and fine the company higher amounts than they saved, only if you take the initiative.
    • by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @06:20PM (#8763993)

      I worked for an independent franchise chain of the Marco's Pizza restaurant a number of years ago as a delivery driver.

      Pizza delivery jobs suck. I once had a job as a delivery driver for CosaNostra pizza, and they had a really strict policy that the pizza had to be delivered in 30 minutes or less. One day, the manager gave me a pizza that only had 8 minutes left for delivery, and I accidentally put the company car in a burbclave pool en route. Luckily, a Kourier was able to deliver the pizza within the remaining amount of time, so I wasn't totally screwed...

      Now I'm doing anti-virus work. Much better fit for me.

  • Time and Attendance (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jdc180 ( 125863 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @03:59PM (#8763081)
    I sell and maintain Time and Attendance systems for my customers. Our software audits punches in a real simple manner. If the punch comes in from the clock it shows up on the employee time card in black. if it is edited or changed it changes to red. It's impossible to cheat the system. If you cheat there's an audit trail. This is how it's supposed to be done.

    Now what i do see a problem with is rounding. A lot of places like to round punches in a very unfair manner. If you're 15 minutes early it rounds forward, and if you stay 15 minutes late it rounds back. This is VERY common, however illegal.

    The law states that whatever rounding rules you apply at the start of the day must be the same rule you apply at the end of the day, so if your employer uses these techniques to cheat you, do something about it.
  • Best Buy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by michrech ( 468134 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @04:08PM (#8763141)
    I worked for just over 4 years at Best Buy, store 108. Not only did they fire all the openly homosexual people (including myself) by creating situations where they could claim the employee was stealing, they were *also* cought stealing time as described in this article. I even got a check for a few measly dollars out of it.

    In my situation, I was the 'in home pc-tech'. I had to use my own car. When I was in a car accident, I obviously could no longer continue in that job. My computer access was immediatly restricted so I couldn't finish the invoices I had outstanding. The white bankers box I had put all my invoices into while I was BEGGING to have my computer access restored 'vanished'. Shortly after that I was 'fired' for theft. Was I jailed? Nope. Fined? Nope. Had my pay check shortened to cover the 'loss'? Nope. They simply wanted to hire another in home computer tech and didn't have the money to do so without getting rid of the highest paid computer store tech that they had -- me. I saw all the 'tao' messages that had been sent back and forth to the support manager of the tech area.

    This kind of crap goes on all the time, and it needs to stop.

    What happened to the general manager of the store? Well, after being caught in MORE time-stealing, he was promoted to REGIONAL MANAGER!

    That's business in the US for 'ya!
  • How to Fight This (Score:5, Interesting)

    by John Murdoch ( 102085 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @04:35PM (#8763296) Homepage Journal

    Daughter #1 came home from her job at a regional restaurant chain, one night during high school, and complained bitterly that she was getting cheated. It seems the restaurant's assistant managers had decided that they were going to make some policy changes to save costs--and the costs they had in mind were the payroll costs of the "cleaners", two or three people who did cleaning chores in the kitchen and the restaurant area. Their brilliant plan: the cleaning chores would be assigned to the wait staff--who would have to perform them after going off the clock at the end of their shifts.

    For those of you keeping score at home, this is a federal crime.

    An Internet solution...
    So I registered for a Hotmail account, under the pseudonym of a noted villain [] in American labor history, and found an email address for the chain's corporate parent from their web site. The email went something like this:

    • Your restaurant in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has a problem. The problem is that minors are being kept past midnight, wait staff is being worked off the clock, etc.
    • This is a management opportunity: deal with this, or face hearing about it from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
    • I hope to see clear, demonstrable evidence that you are addressing this issue within the next days. Or I'll drop the dime.

    The company jumped
    I sent the email late Friday night. By Saturday afternoon the company had descended, announced that the restaurant would be closed on Monday and Tuesday for "training," and Tuesday night had a staff meeting announcing that this would not happen again, yadda yadda yadda. The assistant managers got spanked.

    In an age of anonymous email, there's no excuse for putting up with this
    Especially because, for just a couple of bucks, you can register a domain that will scare the stuffing out of your typical PHB (oh, like "People United for Fair Wage Reporting", "Pennsylvania Labor Standards Action", "Mid-Atlantic Coalition for Labor Justice", and so forth), and be sure to "copy" your anonymous emails to a name at that domain. Or, for that matter, copy a local newspaper columnist.

    The cockroach principle
    Shine a bright light, and cockroaches will scatter like, well, cockroaches. An anonymous email to corporate headquarters, or the local newspaper, will focus a lot of attention on the cockroaches who are trying to pull this stuff.

  • by Cryofan ( 194126 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @04:43PM (#8763343) Journal
    This crap is almost unheard of in the social democracies of European social democracies, e.g., Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Netherlands, etc. They have the attitude that the country belongs to the citizens and that businesses there have to toe the line.

    When are Americans going to wake up and realize that capitalism is a TOOL to be used, and NOT a end-all, be-all, or a way of life, or a fuckin' religion?

    But like all tools, it must have comprehensive controls and safeguards built in. You wouldn't design a chainsaw without adequate controls and safeguards, would you?

  • by Punk Walrus ( 582794 ) on Sunday April 04, 2004 @08:03PM (#8764636) Journal
    ... salary!

    No kidding, you can get away with anything by using salary as a defense. I used to work for a company that was based on "Good Ol' Boy" rules from Texas (Cargo Furniture, division of Tandycrafts, who put tiny crate-style furniture showrooms in malls). That was work 48hours, six days a week. Of course, we had a staff of three to run a whole store, so this was broken up by two full timers (a manager and assistant manager) and one part timer. Luckily (or unluckily) the stores were usually empty (and thus, no longer around), so crowds were not a problem. The part timer was only there so no one, in theory, had to work a full 12-hour day.

    The salary went like this: they said it was hourly, but they paid you overtime. I can't recall why they paid you hourly, but there was some odd tax thing of salary vs. hourly. So, as a manager I got paid:

    (40hrs x 1.0 x $7.00 = $280 for "normal time") + (8hrs x 1.5 x $7.00 = $ 84 for "overtime") = $364/week = $18,928 a year as "salary"

    Now, it was never explained why we were paid hourly, because if you worked 50, 60, or 80 hours in one week (like your assistant was on vacation), you didn't get overtime. But on your paycheck was your hourly wage. But it was salary. You had to clock in, too, but you weren't allowed to report the real hours and so the timecards never matched anything in reality.

    Now, tell someone you want hire, "We'll pay you less than what people around here are getting paid for assistants, but you have to work six days a week, 48 hours a day." Then tell a part timer he or she's getting minimum wage and can only work no more than 10 hours a week. I never got many applicants, and many managers were totally starved for staff. 80 hour weeks were common. Those who had a staff often worked other stores that didn't have staff just so the only employee could get a day off. For nothing. My record was 2 months of 12-hour days with no time off, and I wasn't even close to the record holder. It was insane.

    Confused? Yeah, those who questioned the legality of it got fired. This was back during Bush Sr's recession of the early 90s, so I was happy to have a job at all (previously, I had been unemployed for 2 years, and was living in the projects - I could NOT afford to be choosy about my employer).

    Wall-Mart uses the same tactics. They hire people for low wages, and those that agree they know are too stupid, have no self-confidence, or otherwise unable to get a job elsewhere, either because of local economies, or previous employer problems. In fact, if you DO sue a company for defrauding you, good luck getting a job elsewhere! Maybe that's not legal, or even true in some states, but try telling that to your average Wall-Mart employee, who wasn't able to get a better job in the first place. They may bitch about having rights, but they can't afford to go to court if they want to also put food on their table.

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