Should I Report Improper Time-Clock Action?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker clocking in fraud:

What should I do now that I’ve witnessed a fellow employee illegally clocking in? Should I go to HR, should I go to our boss, should I confront him, or should I keep to myself?

Signed, Wondering About Next Step

Dear Wondering About Next Step:

I think there are several things to consider as you decide what to do about this situation. Think about them in light of your workplace, the culture there, your position and the supervisory and managerial team that will be involved.

1. A key issue is the nature of the action involving the time clock. Usually time clock issues are not legal matters, but rather administrative matters. Even in places where clocking-in improperly is technically considered fraud against the government, the matter is never pursued criminally.If the action of the employee is truly criminal and would be tried criminally, perhaps it is serious enough to bring to the attention of a supervisor. As I said, I doubt that is the case. I imagine it is a rules violation.

2. How close are you to the employee, personally? If you two have problems anyway, you probably won’t be able to make a difference if you talk to him or her. If you’re friends or at least get along well, maybe you could say you’ve worried about it ever since you saw it, and wanted to remind her that she could really get in trouble for doing it.

3. What kind of person is the employee? If he or she rarely does anything of this nature and is generally a decent person to work with, you could probably let this go. If the person is usually mean-spirited, does this kind of thing often and is not well respected by others, perhaps your view would be different.

4. What is your supervisor like? If he would immediately tell the employee you were involved, that might be one thing. If he could be trusted to investigate on his own, that is something else.HR staff are not usually the ones involved in such investigations, in most places. But the same thought would apply. How do you think they would handle it?So, those are all things to think about, given your own, specific workplace. But here is what I would suggest, based on working with time clock issues a lot in the past:If you find the time clock issue is becoming a wide-spread problem that impacts other employees, including you, then report it. Or, if there is a specific rule that says an employee that knows about such matters will be fired for not reporting it, that would indicate you might be forced to say something. If you are asked by a supervisor if you saw something, tell the truth. Otherwise, I’d say not to report it at this time.There is almost no way to prove improper use of the time clock, unless the supervisor or someone else in authority observes it. Usually another employee reporting it is not sufficient for action to be taken.If nothing could be proven by the supervisor, nothing would happen to the employee. Except your standing in the group would be harmed. If the matter was one of strict legalities or ethics involving life or a code of conduct, I would say to report it. If the matter is a few minutes one way or the other on a time clock, I’d say leave it alone.

A positive thing you can do is to vow to not ever give in to the temptation to clock in incorrectly yourself. You may have already made that commitment. Being the best, most ethical employee possible, while being friendly, concerned about others and a good member of the group, is the way to gain a strong reputation not only with co-workers but with your supervisors and managers.That is the most important thing for you to aim for. It sounds as though you are already headed in that direction! Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.