What is Time Theft?

Time theft takes many forms and short-changes both the employer and employee. Motivated by the desire to get or keep what’s mine, these practices undermine morale and trust and encourage unethical behaviors.

Buddy punching happens when employees punch the clock for each other and the employee’s true identity can’t be objectively confirmed. Advantage: employee.

Off the clock work arises when an employee volunteers or is “encouraged” to work or complete projects without recording their time. It’s usually a practice designed to avoid paying overtime and the motivation to do so can be malicious or well intended. Advantage: employer.

Unearned paid time off occurs when an employee asks for time off, does not have enough time in their balance and is paid for the full amount of the time off request. A January 2010 Nucleus Research report estimated that employees are paid an average of 1.25 days per year of unearned paid time off. Advantage: employee.

Rounding rules are a practice designed to minimize or eliminate small increments of overtime while granting employees a small grace period when clocking in and out. While the US Department of Labor generally frowns upon the practice, its guideline is that the practice should always benefit the employee. Typically, the larger the rounding increment, the more the employer benefits. Advantage: employer.

Unearned pay is a form of time theft where employees are tardy, leave early or take extended breaks, but record their time as though they had been on time or returned from breaks once they ended. An American Payroll Association study showed that employers that manually calculate payroll, pay an average of 10 minutes per employee per day in unearned pay as a result of this form of time theft. Advantage: employee.

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