• authored by the_hound
  • published Mon, Apr 5, 2004

Corporate Time Thieves Busted

Altering workers' time cards or requiring them to punch out and work "off the clock" is a practice that is not unheard of in the service industry. It's hard to tell how widespread the practice has become in the insatiable drive for more profit but there's no doubt that it goes on. In corporate-speak, reducing hours worked means greater productivity which translates into more profit. In many service industry businesses, local managers face rewards or penalities depending on their ability to meet productivity targets mandated by corporate offices. The temptation to cheat - even if that means requiring people to work for free - is certainly present.

The corporate time thieves get away with it because, in the mostly non-union service industry, workers who complain face dismissal or other penalties. Even in unionized service industry workplaces, where concession bargaining has given management greater flexibility in areas such as scheduling and job assignments, workers who find themselves shortchanged on pay day can face a real dilemma: If they complain, they may face management reprisals such as reductions in hours or days of work or arbitrary schedule changes intended to encourage them to quit. If they go along with the practice, they may face reprisals from their union. Some UFCW collective agreements call for lengthy suspensions of workers who are caught working off the clock. Damned if you do and damned if you don't. Confronted with a choice of almost certainly upsetting their employer or possibly upsetting their union (if they get caught), it's not hard to see why many choose to keep the boss happy.

When workers falsify time cards, reporting hours that they haven't actually worked, that's called "time theft" and is treated as a serious offence often resulting in dismissal. Why shouldn't the same standard apply when the situation is reversed and employers are doing the stealing? According to a recent report in the New York Times, some workers - including a number who were employed in managerial positions - are taking exactly that position. They're taking employers who engage in this dishonest practice to court - and they're winning too. Check it out.

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