While people love getting big paychecks when they work a lot of overtime, most people don't like physically punching in and out. I got this email from a reader:

What do you think about the idea of professional or semi-professional (i.e., highly-skilled college graduates) hourly employees having to clock in and out daily and for breaks, etc., especially in a creative field? My company just adopted a product called "Humanity" which requires us to do that and many of us are disgruntled. As a midlevel manager friend of mine said, "no matter how you spin it, it screams 'we don't trust you'."

I asked how they tracked time before and he said they filled out a time card each week and submitted it.

So, yes, this does sound like they don't trust you, but there's more to it than that. First, Humanity is a web-based time tracking system that has the added benefit of a GPS tracking so that your boss not only knows when you clocked in but where you were when you did so, and your boss can log on at any time and see what you are working on. Shudder.

There are some jobs where this, undoubtedly, makes sense. If you're a field service provider, who rarely comes into the office, this GPS tracking and the ability to clock in on a smartphone could be handy. If you're an office based worker, it's silly overkill. (Of course, the company may or may not use all the available features.)

So, back to the trust thing. What would make them change to a computerized clock-in/out system when they've been using a simple time card for years? I think if you read that sentence you'll figure that one out. If you've been filling out time cards then someone has to input those into the payroll system to get everyone paid. With a computer system, data can be electronically transferred meaning it's faster and more accurate (probably) than your previous system. That's a plus.

But does this implementation mean that they think you are cheating on your time cards? Perhaps, but if they do it might not be what you think. People who work professional non-exempt jobs are often willing to go above and beyond. As such, they may work through lunch, come in early, or stay late and not include it on their time cards because they don't want to appear like they need extra help.

This is very noble on the part of the employee. However, it's illegal on the part of the business. Who gets in trouble if it comes to light that you've been working off the clock? The company. They have to pay fines and back pay and legal bills and it's a huge mess. So, while it's possible that some people were padding their time cards (which you can still do with this system, of course, but not as easily as a handwritten card), but it's more likely that people were recording less time than they should.

Yes, everyone would like you to work for free, but you legally can't. Not even interns can work off the clock in for-profit businesses. (Unless they meet extremely strict criteria.) If the company was audited (internally or externally) and discovered that people were working off the clock, this would be an attempt to rein that in. If people were over-reporting hours, well that works as well.

So, don't take offense and clock in and out, even though it's super annoying.

There is one more tact you can take--asking for your job to be re-evaluated as exempt. Since you said you're in a creative field, it kind of surprises me that you're not a salaried exempt employee--i.e. one who has no need to clock in and out.

  • Earn not less than $455 per week;
  • be compensated on a salary or fee basis; and
  • have the primary duty of performing work that requires invention, imagination, originality or talent in a recognized field of artistic or creative endeavor.

Now, it's certainly likely that you don't meet the criteria, but it's worth asking. The legal definition is found in the Fair Labor Standards Definition.

Have a problem employee, problem manager or a people management question? Send your questions to EvilHRLady@gmail.com.