manager is fudging her hours in our payroll system

A reader writes:

Our assistant department manager takes care of submitting our payroll to HR. Our organization uses ADP and allows us to either punch in or clock in on the computer by entering what time we arrived and left and lets us edit categories like no lunch.

The problem is that there’s no oversight of the manager’s own hours. The unit director is not computer literate and allows this manager to “handle it.” Several employees have witnessed this manager arriving late and leaving early and skipping out during the day for personal appointments, yet she manages to have tons of PTO (paid time off) hours. She often talks about how many she has, which doesn’t add up with what she works.

I have gone to the director several times and he continues to ignore the problem. He asked another staff member to “help him get into ADP,” but still nothing has changed. I also went to the CFO and he said “there is no way to prove it.” It is really hurting the morale in the department. Any suggestions?

Well, you’ve already alerted the people who should be alerted and they … don’t care, apparently.

It’s possible that there’s a reason they don’t care. For instance, maybe this manager works from home in the evenings a lot and doesn’t log it, so they’re fine with her being more flexible with her hours during the day. Or maybe not — maybe they’re just negligent. (The CFO’s reaction seems to support that.)

Regardless, though, at this point you’ve done what you can do. You’ve brought it to the attention of people whose job is to care. From there, it’s up to them.

I know it’s frustrating when you’re diligent about logging your own hours and when you would probably appreciate having as much PTO as she’s apparently getting, but your best bet at this point is really probably to put it out of your mind. There doesn’t seem to be anything you can do about it, but you can certainly factor it into your overall thinking about how your company operates.

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Tax Nerd*

    Is the manager salaried, or paid hourly? (Managers are exempt from overtime laws, IIRC.) If she’s salaried, and the higher-ups are okay with her not working 40.0 hours on the dot, then that’s that. Is there a company policy on PTO for salaried people?

    I’ve worked places that said anything under four hours per day was too small to be counted in the big scheme of things, and to just treat it like a full workday, because they weren’t interested in managing PTO in tiny increments. (My last job managed everything in six-minute increments, so I’ve seen both extremes.) If your company doesn’t have an official policy on how much time off per day is the difference between the flexibility of being salaried and when PTO needs to be taken, she may have such a policy in her head.

    I know that I might work a 7-hour day in the summer when things are slow, but I’ll also have to work 14-hour days in tax season when things are crazy, and I just don’t worry about it. The staff who get paid hourly pay more attention to it, naturally, because they want their proper pay.

    1. businesslady*

      this. if she’s salaried, then I really don’t see how this is an issue. at my organization, any day where you came in to work is counted as a full day–even if you left after an hour, you don’t have to take PTO. (now, obviously, in practice there’d be some disciplinary action if someone was regularly leaving after only an hour or two, but for the occasional half-day pre-vacation or before a doctor’s appointment? not a problem.)

  2. Corey Feldman*

    Also if she is truly a manager, she is exempt and a lot of companies do not want to go down the road of partial day deductions. So when a non exempt person comes in late they my be required to use leave but the exempt person could work an hour and get paid for the day. Of course as you said that same exempt person might be working from home, or working long hours or on weekends.

  3. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Yeah, I’m assuming she’s probably exempt and that’s part of this. That said, the CFO’s response (“we can’t prove it”) is concerning — at best, it’s terribly inept.

  4. Lexy*

    At my workplace you still have to log your hours if you’re exempt because we operate on a “billable hours” framework, so while your hours don’t affect your pay, they do affect your “utilization” which is a pretty key performance measure at the end of the year. Could be the letter writer is in that situation… I’ve also worked at small businesses that get spooked by wage & hour laws and so make everyone “non-exempt” (I’m fairly certain that you can make an exempt employee non-exempt… just not the other way around.)

    1. KellyK*

      I think it’s not so much that you can *make* them non-exempt, because “non-exempt” is a legal category and the business isn’t in charge of determining that. But what you can do is *treat* them as non-exempt, which means paying by the hour and paying OT, but not being obligated to pay the same in any week where work is done.

      (I know, very minor nitpick.)

      1. fposte*

        And to nitpick/expand further, hourly pay and salary are common conventions for non-exempt and exempt, but it’s perfectly legal to salary a non-exempt person and pay an exempt person hourly.

  5. LL*

    Is this manager getting her work done? Does the missed time affect the OP’s job? Or is this situation hurting morale simply out of a sense of unfairness?

    Exempt employees are often evaluated on their performance, not the specific hours worked. If the OP’s manager is exempt and meeting performance goals, it’s entirely possible that the higher ups are happy to ignore the timesheet fudging.

    1. Michael C*

      I think this should warrant whether the time-thing should be an issue. If the manager is getting her work done I can’t see the higher ups needing to address this.

  6. KellyK*

    The “there is no way to prove it” comment sounds to me like it’s something she’s not *supposed to* be doing, and they just don’t care.

    I would think that if the “fudging” was because she’s exempt, but the timesheet system requires hours to be entered, it would be easy enough to say, “Oh, no, she’s not doing anything shady. That’s just a quirk of the timesheet system.”

    If you’re in a “billable hours” situation, like Lexy mentions, I think that complicates timesheets, particularly if payroll is done directly from the timesheet system. My (very limited) understanding is that in most systems, you can either pay exempt employees directly based on their timesheet hours, or you can track actual hours worked but have the timesheet system ignore them and pay them the same each week. So it can get complicated when you have some exempt people doing billable work, some doing overhead work, and some doing a mix of both, especially if sometimes you pay for extra hours but sometimes you don’t, depending on the contract.

    So I can completely see a situation where an exempt, non-billable employee is specifically directed to just put “8” on their timesheet regardless because it keeps Deltek happy and makes the math easier. But I don’t think this is that sort of situation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The “there is no way to prove it” comment sounds to me like it’s something she’s not *supposed to* be doing, and they just don’t care.

      I would think that if the “fudging” was because she’s exempt, but the timesheet system requires hours to be entered, it would be easy enough to say, “Oh, no, she’s not doing anything shady. That’s just a quirk of the timesheet system.”

      Exactly what I was thinking. If it’s fine for her to do, why didn’t the managers just say that?

      If I were that manager and this really is fine, I’d be pissed off that the CFO said “we can’t prove it,” as if I were doing something wrong but just couldn’t be caught.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s what bothers me as well – the response.

        I totally get why this is a big deal to the OP. I mean tptb know about it now, so it’s their problem, but to be honest this would bother me more than most things.

        Payroll and timekeeping is a sacred thing around a lot of places. Believe me, if there was talk of hour fudging I would take that very seriously and if there was malfeasance…there’s definitely a way to prove it if you want to.

        I understand what some of you are saying about if she’s exempt it’s a different issue, but I read this like their PTO is calculated off the hours from the system. If that’s the case it is an issue – she’s ‘stealing’ time off and if she can cash out, she’s stealing real money IF that’s how it calculates and IF she’s doctoring the hours.

        Oh – and “He asked another staff member to “help him get into ADP,””

        Seriously, if you need help with ADP (aside from a password) you need to back away from the keyboard and let someone else do you work for you. It’s not that complicated.

        All that said – I totally get the frustration but they know and don’t care – it’s not your problem so I’d stop trying to get satisfaction on this. If you keep pushing unfortunately this will hurt you, not her.

        1. Anon*

          If ADP is a timekeeping system, my guess is he doesn’t need help with it; he’s doing what the partners at my law firm do and refusing to learn how it works so he can more easily foist the task of entering his time off on subordinates.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        One thing I was thinking was the CFO is very removed from the assistant manager and the OP. Maybe it’s not really his business to monitor timesheets (all departments work it out differently among themselves), and with the OP going to the CFO (around the unit manager???) I think “there is no way to prove it” could be the brush-off.

        This whole post really annoys me, though. Why can’t people mind their own business, especially after going to the higher-ups? I think I wake up and think about work from 1 am-3:30 am often enough that no one should mind when I have to leave 30 minutes early. : )

  7. Just a Reader*

    I don’t see how this is any of the OP’s business. He/she has made too big a stink already, IMO. As long as OP is getting paid what is earned, that’s all there is to worry about.

    1. The IT Manager*


      Yeah, this sucks and is unfair, but OP is wading into hot water. I think she’s done all/more than you can expect anyone to do and to do further could make things worse for her between her and her manager because the manager is mad at her for reporting something. My recommendation is for her to drop it now because the people who might could do anything about it already know and don’t seem to care.

      1. Cruella DaBoss*

        + Infinity!

        I understand that not getting the same perks as others, especially the same as those in management, may cause a “morale issue” for those who have not earned them.

        Life is not fair. Get over it.

    2. Mishsmom*

      in theory why should OP care, true. but in practice, i had a supervisor who did the same – she’d say she was working from home, she’d say a lot of things, but she was never there when we called with questions/emergencies and it does really bug when we were held to a strict standard by HER and she was out and about claiming she was working. it does matter – it matters to morale.

    3. Zee*

      I was thinking the same thing. I was starting to wonder if she knew too how the person’s paycheck was looking – if it reflected the computer or the reality.

      The only complaint the OP might have is if the manager’s work is falling onto others in the manager’s absence.

      1. Cruella DaBoss*

        Which the OP does not mention, leading me to believe the manager’s work is getting done. The only issue mentioned is the time the manager is in the office.

  8. Life Is Weird*

    What the CFO said seems like an off the cuff comment, maybe what the CFO meant was “you (OP can’t prove it) not a helpful word choice but it is entirely possible that there is a really good and private reason why this specific person is in and out of work as noted. And it is entirely possible that the CFO and the other Manager are honouring that privacy, know what the real reason is, believe it isn’t the OP’s place to judge and wish the OP would focus on their own work.

    The person in question should not be discussing her available PTO at any rate, especially if her reason for weird work hours is related to a personal and private situation; if it is work related (possibly working outside the office on something the powers that be want kept confidential??) she should also just keep quiet on the whole time/work issue.

    Either way it bothers me that the OP went to the Director and the CFO -did she even try to have a respectful, non-judgemental chat with the person involved?

    1. Michelle*


      I was thinking the same. The Manager could have a special arrangement for her hours and the Director/CFO aren’t going to freely talk about it with the OP. I’d say just let it go.

    2. UpDownSide*

      I think that’s why I can see it bothering the OP–the comments made by the assistant manager about how much PTO she has. Yes, it’s not really any of the OP’s business how the asst. manager accounts for her time if it isn’t directly impacting her own work (caveat to add in, as Jamie did above, that this would be different if the asst. manager is “stealing” PTO by doctoring the hours logged). But it can impact morale to have to hear about it when you perceive an imbalance in the way employees are able to accrue benefits. I’ve been both exempt and non-exempt; there are pitfalls to both, but the best way to work around any perceived unfairness is for people to not talk about it overmuch.

      I compare it to a previous job, where all employees had to fill out a bi-weekly timesheet AND sign in/out, but only non-exempt had to write in what TIME they arrived/left–the implication being that hourly employees could not be trusted to be truthful on their timesheets. Probably not how management meant it, but that’s how a lot of us saw it.

  9. Life Is Weird*

    I meant to say that what the CFO said was not a good response but we all say things in ‘unfiltered’ mode from time to time. I wouldn’t be quick to jump on it as meaning anything but a poor choice of words.

  10. Roja*


    The only suggestion I have for OP, is to stop this now. Before people start to wonder if you have nothing better to do, since you have enough time on your hands to check on your manager and report it to several people.

    1. Mishsmom*

      i have to agree though… OP nothing good can come of this for you. it bugs, it’s irritating and it’s definitely not fair (seemingly, anyway) – but it is what it is and Roja is right – people start wondering why you have so much time to worry about other people’s work schedules.

  11. NewReader*

    The best advice I found said something like “EXPECT people to question the hours/time that you work. Keep yourself transparent to others.” In other words this is predictable human behavior- people will question what I am doing- anticipate this will happen.
    The advice went on to say that managers who write schedules should stick to the hours they schedule themselves for. If not, employees will question the abilities/ethics of the manager.

    Sure, one can have valid counterpoints to these ideas.
    Fact remains- People who are working fuzzy hours or who don’t follow their own schedules, will discredit themselves with their group. The group will become resentful and moral will go down.
    That is the way that cookie crumbles. That is the pattern in these situations.

    I think, OP, come up with a way of looking at the situation that helps to keep you 1)employed and 2) doing your best.

    I worked in a place where I was HAPPY when Person X sneaked out the door early. It was a relief! I found out later that most of the other people in my building felt the same way. They just let X go home. Not a good solution. But upper management had turned its collective back. So this was how I kept myself going.

    Your coping tools will probably be different than mine- but you see the idea.

  12. JJ*

    If this is an hourly employee taking advantage of an incompetent director, how would you prove it? Can you run an ADP report that shows time clock usage vs computer entry? Are computer entered in and out times date and time stamped? For instance can someone put themselves out at 5:30 pm in the computer and leave at 3 pm? Why would anyone be allowed to submit their own payroll without any oversite? How do you keep employees from padding their time card?

    1. Jamie*

      Management should talk to their sys admin who can get this information.

      Some places have policies that are more lax than others. I wouldn’t allow anyone to override or approve their own time, but that’s a check and balance I like to have built in to the procedures.

  13. Joey*

    This crap creates resentment. And when employees make a big deal about it that’s usually a sign that the manager in more ways than one talks the talk but doesnt walk the walk. If you had a do over I would say to give more specifics so it would be obvious how much it’s costing them. But that would look a little whiny now. The best you can do is not cover for her when she’s out and raise any issues that arise from that.

    1. twentymilehike*

      This crap creates resentment

      And earlier someone mentioned how this effects morale wheather you like it or not, basically. This is SO. TRUE. My boss, who is the president of a company of less than ten employees with several different salary/wage arrangements. He will regularly “work from home” but be completely unavailable and have nothing to show for his “work,” or say he was in working after hours or all weekend when the rest of us aren’t here. Its not a matter of whether he CAN do it or not, but the fact that we no longer feel like he’s part of our team and basically leaves us hanging with no management during business hours.

      If this person is a manager they need to be the one there setting an example and leading the way! It sounds like the OP is feeling a disconnect between the team and someone who is supposed to help lead the team. .

  14. HR Gorilla*

    We use ADP for timekeeping (both ezLabor and eTime systems), payroll, and HRIS. Our salaried exempt store managers are required to enter their time the same way our hourly (non-exempt) folks do…the big However, though, is that none of the managers’ timekeeping data flows over into payroll for actual pay purposes. It’s used to verify store coverage data, productivity, etc, and to make vacation requests.

    I’ve had more than a few hourly associates call and say that their manager is “lying” on their timecards, and all I have to do is check the audit logs to see whether the manager was actually in the store at the time of clock in/out, or whether they were editing their timecard after the fact. My long-winded point being, it’s very easy to use the system to see how…people are using the system! But this type of reporting (edit audit logs) is often only viewable by payroll or hr folks, so it could be that upper management A) aren’t aware of the additional reporting capabilities, or B) don’t mind/care how the manager is entering her time.

    But I agree with other commenters–you’ve brought it to everyone’s attention (and it sounds like that CFO is not a great communicator!) and they’ve signified that they’re aware. Let it go.

  15. iceyone*

    You’ve done what you thought was right, leave it at that and get on with your work.

    If I see a manager doing this I would probably let it go – putting it down to the fact that they work from home and do extra hours.

    People should stop focusing on what others are doing (unless it’s directly impacting them!) and be happy with their position. (if their not then that’s an issue they have to look into!).

    I would only bring this up if my manager was bugging me about my attendance and I might ask them if they minded me working from home 1 day a fortnight.

  16. kjohnson*

    Just an update on this situation. The Assistant Director has been banned from submitting her own payroll and the Director has been fired.

Comments are closed.