Can my employers withhold my time card?

I work in a cafeteria, mostly with 18-20 year olds, who have a tendency as a whole to quit without notice, or to leave early. Apparently management has had a problem with employees leaving at the end of the night before all of their responsibilities are completed, so sometimes they will collect the timecards of all on-duty employees to prevent them from clocking out without permission. This isn’t really a problem for me personally, but I question the legality of the practice. It seems as though employees should be able to clock out at any time they like, but face disciplinary action/termination for doing so. It also seems like an employee should be able to quit at any time they please, and maintain an accurate record of their actual time worked. So, are the supervisors setting the company up for legal trouble by doing this? If so, are the supervisors setting themselves up for any legal trouble as individuals as well?

(I’m sure they might want to contact their own legal team for specific legal advice, but I’m not a supervisor, and it’s not really my problem. I’m just curious, and a bit affronted by the practice.)

Yes they can. Holding time cards is similar to a scheme offered by ADP or Kronos clock.

I did payroll at a company that required I input all the schedules for punched employees.

The employee was only allowed to clock in 7 minutes PRIOR or 7 minutes AFTER his scheduled start time. It also would only allow them to clock OUT 7 minutes PRIOR or AFTER his schedulted off time. If you attempted to swipe the card at other times the card would not work

If, for any reason, the employee had to clock out different, they had to get, what was called a “Super Card” (for Supervisor’s Card). They would swipe that card FIRST, then their own time card.

This electronic way is similar to holding time cards.

The thing is time cards are convenient, every state I’ve ever worked in the laws clearly say regardless of what’s on the card, you have to pay the employee for hours ACTUALLY worked.

So if they are working longer and they can prove it. (For instance their code on a computer or key swipe) and you don’t pay, you can be fined. The onus of providing acurate hours worked is on the employer in every state I’ve ever worked in. (And I’ve worked in at least half the states)

My impression as an HR person, not a lawyer, is that these documents/machines are property of the employer and thus under the employer’s control. The law is, however, pretty strong on the side of an employee being entitled to being paid for time worked, regardless of whether it was recorded.

I agree with your position on how this *should *be handled, with disciplinary action.

The employee can quit at any time, but if quitting without notice may be somewhat taking it upon himself to prove exactly how long he worked on the last day. I don’t think most employers would fight it if the employee made some minimal effort, like calling the manager’s voicemail and saying “I was scheduled until 10 but I quit effective 8pm.” For most employers it’s just not worth the fight for 2 hours of minimum wage.

If management is concerned about people sneaking off and leaving the place unstaffed without detection, I can somewhat see their point about keeping the timecard area under management control. It seems heavy handed for a cafeteria, but for, say, an amusement park, where coverage could be a big issue, maybe it would make a little more sense.

My impression- employee-unfriendly, but the legal issue would come up if it resulted in someone actually not getting paid for time worked.

I’m not sure they are necessarily quitting the job, just leaving work for the day, right?

Scenario: Employee Bob is asked to make sure that he mops the kitchen and bathrooms before he leaves. Employee Bob, not inclined to mop, since it’s Judy’s turn, decides to forgo the mopping, and punches out as soon as the supervisor’s back is turned.

No one is being paid for work they hadn’t done, and no one is owed pay for work they did do. The time cards are indeed accurate, but never-the-less, Bob didn’t finish his assigned tasks before he clocked out.

The issue isn’t timekeeping, per say, but Bob not completeing his tasks before he left for the nigh.

I guess the management believes that the employee will have to complete the assigned tasks, as asked, if they can’t clock out whenever they feel like.

I can’t answer to the legality of all this.