The Fair Labor Standards Act is a federal law that requires employers to maintain accurate records about the hours that non-exempt employees work. Non-exempt employees are those who work for an hourly wage rather than a salary set by month or year. Most employers satisfy the Fair Labor Standards Act by using some form of time card system. Falsification of a time card happens when employees provide inaccurate data about their hours worked or cause others to supply misleading information.

Handwritten Time Cards

Some businesses still require workers to fill out a handwritten time card for each pay period. Employees typically will supply information about the precise time they arrived and left work each day. This system has been abandoned by some employers because it relies on the honor system. Workers who arrive two minutes late, for example, may be reluctant to admit this in writing on a time card.

Providing inaccurate arrival or departure times constitutes falsification. If time cards require workers to summarize their work activities for each hour or day, this data must also be accurate.

Punching In

Many large businesses abandoned handwritten time cards long ago in favor of time clocks that allow workers to "punch in." A time clock automatically records the time on a card when an employee inserts it in a slot. This makes it more difficult for workers to mislead employers about arrival and departure times.

A time clock does not eliminate the problem of falsification. Some employees may ask a co-worker to "punch in" for them so the card will not indicate the truth about early departures or late arrivals. Both employees involved in such a scheme have committed time card falsification.

Modern Electronic Systems

Some businesses today use a more advanced electronic time clock. These systems provide workers with cards bearing magnetic strips that record information. Other kinds of electronic time cards rely on automatic systems that read employee badges or use handheld scanners to record information. Electronic systems make falsification more difficult, but they are not foolproof. Employees who dawdle after completing a day's work, for example, may be able to trick the system into recording extra minutes worked for them.


Falsification of a time card is a serious matter. Most employers have written policies that list it as cause for immediate termination of employment. It may also be a criminal offense in some jurisdictions. In Massachusetts, for example, receiving pay for hours not actually worked is a form of larceny. Criminal penalties for this behavior include up to a year in jail and fines as high as $300.