Can You Go to Jail for Clocking in and Leaving?

Can You Go to Jail for Clocking in and Leaving?

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Can You Go to Jail for Clocking in and Leaving?

Life is stressful, and in some cases, we might have to leave situations very quickly in order to handle the many responsibilities on our plates. These unforeseen events are unpredictable, and there could be times when you have just arrived to work and suddenly have to leave. Whatever the reason is, you have to give your attention elsewhere, leaving you wondering if you’ve created a sticky situation with your employer.

Employment laws are often strict—black & white, in most instances—but life doesn’t always work that way. Technically, you can go to jail for clocking in and leaving because your actions are considered fraudulent. But, if an unforeseen situation arises and you’re needed somewhere outside of your workplace, there’s not much you can do, especially if it’s an urgent emergency. You aren’t purposefully committing the crime, so it’s ultimately up to your employer to decide whether your actions were done out of malice or by mistake.

Routine cases of clocking in and leaving are different, as are circumstances where the employee deliberately intended to defraud their employer by leaving work. At the end of the day, every situation is unique, and if you’re caught in a situation where your employer believes you clocked in and left on purpose, you could find yourself with a serious headache. Morgan & Morgan, one of the nation’s largest personal injury firms, stands as an ally to individuals who find themselves in a situation like this, and we’re prepared to leverage our endless resources to help fight for your rights.

If you’re wondering, “Can You Go to Jail for Clocking In and Leaving?”—we have the answers for you. Read on to learn more about employment laws and, more importantly, how to ensure you aren’t found liable for actions that you didn’t take.

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Get answers to commonly asked questions about our legal services and learn how we may assist you with your case.

  • What Is Employee Time Theft?

    Deliberately clocking into work and leaving with the intention of garnering your wage under false pretenses is considered fraudulent and, therefore, a violation of employment law. Otherwise known as “time theft,” this behavior is illegal, and if you’re caught, your employer could file charges against you. Traditional methods of time theft include time card tampering and manipulating your timesheet to reflect hours you didn’t work, but there are now more modern methods thanks to technological advancements.

    Many employers use mobile or computer-based time tracking sheets to monitor their employee's hours. These systems allow workers to clock in on the go, making it much easier to fraudulently garner your wages. Sometimes tracking applications restricts your ability to clock in and out of work by your location, but with people getting more tech-savvy by the day, it’s only a matter of time until these systems don’t protect against fraud in the slightest.

    You can commit time theft by accident, too. There are cases where you have to leave work quickly, of course, and these individuals likely don’t intend to defraud their employer. Forgetting to clock out, misremembering the days you worked, and extended breaks are all examples of time theft, but they aren’t usually treated the same because the employee did not intend to commit fraud.

  • Can You Get in Trouble for Clocking in, but Not Working?

    It’s ultimately up to your employer to decide whether your case of clocking in and leaving qualifies as time theft. If they decide that your actions were done intentionally to commit fraud, then you can go to jail for clocking in and leaving. However, you aren’t immediately a criminal just because you were talking with a coworker on the way out of the office and forgot to clock out. Accidents happen, and employers should be able to tell the difference. 

    The penalties for time theft depend on the situation at hand. If the employee has gone under the radar and has continually committed the crime, then the consequences will be more severe. Time theft greater than $1,000 is considered a felony and can be punished with up to ten years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. These serious instances often involve individuals who have regularly committed time theft at their occupations, not so much the average worker who forgets to clock out here and there.

    Time theft is also grounds for termination of employment under many employee contracts. This is where the situation gets more complicated, as there have been instances of employers wrongfully terminating employees for time theft that they didn’t commit. Individuals who find themselves in these unfortunate situations often don’t have their voices heard, so they should seek out trusted legal counsel to ensure that their rights are respected in the workplace.

  • What Happens If You Clock in Someone Else at Work?

    Clocking someone else in at work is also considered time theft if that person wasn’t currently performing their job duties when you said they started working. You’re essentially committing time theft for that person, and you can be considered an accomplice to their crime. However, if you were misled by someone else to clock them into work when they weren't in fact working, then you shouldn’t be considered a part of the offense. 

    You might feel obligated to clock in one of your friends, a superior, or any other employee for social reasons, but this is a dangerous game. If it’s discovered that the person you’ve clocked in wasn’t working, you’ll likely have some explaining to do, and there’s no guarantee that your employer won’t terminate your employment because of your involvement.

  • What Happens If You Leave Work Without Clocking Out?

    Simple mistakes won’t put you behind bars, but deliberate instances of time theft can potentially result in legal penalties or jail time. For example, if you leave work on a Friday without clocking out and don’t notice, your employer might speak to you about being more careful. Each instance after that first case can jeopardize your employment and might cause a legal situation, so make sure to learn your lesson as soon as possible to avoid finding yourself in hot water.

    Most instances of time theft aren’t done on purpose, and you can often straighten them out quickly with your HR department or employer themself. However, the more time that passes, the more at risk you are of legal action, so you should be honest with your employer whenever you discover that you forgot to clock out. 

  • What Happens If I Was Wrongfully Accused of Time Theft?

    You can go to jail for clocking in and leaving work in serious cases, which makes false accusations something that can seriously change your way of life. Even if you aren’t facing criminal charges, your employer can still fire you, and losing your job comes with its own set of unfortunate circumstances. If you’re wrongfully accused of time theft, your first call should be to a trusted attorney who has the legal skillset to help you get out of the situation.

    Once you’ve retained an attorney, they’ll likely begin investigating your case. Your employer has likely already done this before they terminated your employment, but if they didn’t, they’ll also start to review the available evidence. In these cases, employers will often check security cameras to see if you’re in the workplace, your time cards to cross-reference your attendance, and any other applicable hard evidence sources. They’ll also speak to other employees to hear their side of the story, which your attorney should be doing as well. 

    If the matter can’t be settled out of court through negotiation, then you’ll have to litigate your case in the courtroom. While this is unlikely, it can happen, so your attorney should always be prepared for this scenario, just in case. Fortunately, all of Morgan & Morgan’s attorneys are trial-ready, and we’re always ready to fight for your rights in the courtroom. We leverage endless resources to work every case up the right way, making sure to take necessary precautions throughout the case to ensure we’re ready for every possibility. 

  • Is It Hard to Prove Time Theft?

    The ability to prove any employment law violation depends on the amount of evidence available, but it isn’t necessarily that simple when it comes to your employee handbook. If legal action is brought against you for time theft and you didn’t commit the crime, you’ll settle the legal dispute with your attorney at the negotiation table or in the courtroom. If it’s more of an internal matter, you might find yourself without a job because there’s less of a burden to prove, so you should also seek out legal counsel in these cases.

    Although you might have your employment terminated because of a false accusation, an attorney can help right the wrong by helping you voice the truth. They can speak with your employer, and if they refuse to change their decision, they can take further legal action to help you set the record straight. Losing your job because of something you didn’t do is unfair, to say the least, but Morgan & Morgan’s attorneys are here to help.

  • Morgan & Morgan’s Trial-Ready Employment Law Attorneys Can Help You Dispute False Allegations

    “Can you go to jail for clocking in and leaving?” Yes, but only if you’ve committed the violation on purpose. Intentional fraud and accidents are two very different things, and if you’re wrongfully accused, just know that you’ll always have an ally in Morgan & Morgan.

    As one of America’s largest personal injury firms, we have the resources to take on any bully. We fight For the People and are more than willing to go the extra mile for the clients who trust us. With over $20 billion recovered, offices from coast to coast, and the determination to never settle for less than our clients deserve, there’s only one firm that can confidently deliver you the results you need—Morgan & Morgan.

    If you were wrongfully accused of time theft or any other employment violation, complete our no-risk case evaluation form to gain an ally in the fight for your rights.

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