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Q&A: Paying Employees without Timecards

Is it legal to delay employee's wages?

We have several employees who are routinely late in submitting payroll time sheets. What recourse do we have? Can we delay pay until the next time period, or will this get us into legal trouble?

No, in most situations it is not appropriate to withhold pay because the employee fails to submit a time card in a timely manner. The best approach is for the employer to pay the estimated time that the employee is believed to have worked. The estimated time would be the time the employer actually knows the employee worked. If the employee fails to submit a time card and the employer includes what is reasonably believed was worked (even if it was less than what the employee actually worked), any necessary corrections can be made at the next pay period. So, if an employee normally works 35 hours a week, and you have no reason to believe that employee didn't work 35 hours that week, the employee should be paid the standard wage. If it is unclear what the employee worked, a good estimate should be made.

Example: Let's say the employee normally works 35 hours a week (five seven-hour days), and took one day off. You aren't sure how many hours the employee actually worked (let's assume the employee is out of vacation time), so you only pay that employee for 28 hours that week. Later, the employee disagrees with the time card you submitted, or you discover the employee actually worked 30 hours that week. You would then add the additional two hours the following pay period. You still have to pay the employee the hours worked, but you have complied with the legal requirement to pay an employee for the time you know the employee actually worked.

The best approach with an employee continuously submitting time cards late is to discipline the employee for not following your guidelines or requirements. This is a better practice than just not paying the employee.

This content is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. It is sold with the understanding that the publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting, or other professional service. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person should be sought. "From a Declaration of Principles jointly adopted by a Committee of the American Bar Association and a Committee of Publishers and Associations." Due to the nature of the U.S. legal system, laws and regulations constantly change. The editors encourage readers to carefully search the site for all content related to the topic of interest and consult qualified local counsel to verify the status of specific statutes, laws, regulations, and precedential court holdings.

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Posted:
  • August 26, 2009

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