Laws for Time Sheets & Signatures

Time cards
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The Fair Labor Standards Act says you must record -- and pay employees for -- all hours worked, but it does not dictate the type of timekeeping system you should use. Any method is acceptable, provided it is correct and complete. You may develop a signature system of your choice, such as employees and their managers manually signing off on time sheets, or an electronic system, in which the employees’ swipes serve as their signatures and their manager’s submission of the hours indicates approval.

Failure to Sign or Submit

Both federal and state law require that you pay your employees by the established payday. In many states, employers must pay their employees by a specific time on payday. If an employee fails to sign her time sheet, submits it late or not at all, you cannot withhold or delay her paycheck. This goes for regular and final paychecks. For example, the Texas Workforce Commission states that it is illegal for an employer to withhold an employee’s final pay because she failed to sign her time sheet. The California Department of Industrial Relations says there is no exception in the law that permits an employer to delay an employee’s pay until the next payday because she failed to submit a time sheet.

Employer Responsibility

If an employee fails to sign his time sheet, submits it late or does not submit one, you must pay him what you believe he is owed. Since you are required to maintain your own records of employees’ work hours, you may use those documents to pay the employee. If for some reason that is not an option, contact the employee or his supervisor for an accounting of his hours worked. Although you may not withhold his paycheck because he failed to sign his time sheet, you may discipline him for not following company policy.


Falsifying time sheets is a violation of federal and state law. This goes for managers and employees who forge time sheet signatures, alter hours worked or clock in and out for someone else. For example, under California law, falsifying work records, including time cards, is a dishonest act for which an employee may be terminated on the grounds of misconduct. In New York, an employee may be charged with a misdemeanor for petit larceny and forgery. If the amount is substantial, she could face a grand larceny felony charge.

Company Policy

So employees know where they stand, establish clear, written timekeeping policies. This includes disciplinary actions for falsifying time sheets. Generally, employers instantly and permanently terminate employees who falsify time sheets. Supervisors who sign off on time sheets are confirming that their employees actually worked the stated hours and therefore may be disciplined if the information is untrue.

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