update: my employer fined me $90 for being late

It’s the launch of this year’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager! Every day this month, including weekends, I’ll be running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. To kick us off…

Remember the letter-writer whose office fined people $2/minute for being late, starting at 9:01 am? She’d racked up a $90 fine in one morning — a full day’s salary. Here’s the update.

As I waited for the day where the accountants would swing by my desk to collect the cash from me as they used to, that day somehow never arrived.

Turns out, the company received several scathing anonymous reviews online for this practice, and they were pretty upset about it tarnishing their image.

So they quietly scrapped the policy without telling anyone. We just figured it out through hearsay and experience over time when the accountants were no longer coming up to us to collect our fines.

I’m glad we no longer have to bleed cash at such a high rate, but we still have a strict punctuality policy down to the minute which is taken into account in our performance reviews and is still deeply embedded into our culture.

Think people cursing and getting anxious in the elevators stopping at every other floor at 8:58 am; texting the admin with a PICTURE of us that we are not late – our elevator has just broken down and we’re trapped; and people running like a madman to the office gates at 9:00 am before it strikes 9:01 am.

I love what I do and my coworkers otherwise, though, so that definitely helps a lot.

{ 236 comments… read them below }

  1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    Oh, I was hoping for an update for this one!

    Sounds like the company reacted to only the immediate criticism (fining people for being late is bananas!) but didn’t actually take the opportunity to think through the issue fully. You can lead a horse to water….

    1. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. They only cared what it looked like to outsiders, not what the policy was doing to their staff. Maybe they need a few more reviews about how the punctuality practice is horrible….There’s being on time and then there’s sweating 2 minutes stuck in an elevator.

    2. GooseTracks*

      Seriously. Management has its head up its rear for thinking this policy will do anything other than drive away good employees. I also hope OP will consider cutting back on the overtime! Don’t do this company any favors; put the onus on your boss to reallocate work or reprioritize projects to allow you to stay on top of your work in 8 hours day. (Honestly, I’d go hard for malicious compliance here – it’s crucial that I’m in my seat at 9:00 am every day? Ok, then it’s equally as crucial that I am walking out of the building at 5:01 pm every day.)

      1. CL Cox*

        Also legally mandated breaks and lunch times. You want to be a stickler for clock watching? Fine, be a stickler for ALL the times. And absolutely don’t make yourself available. If your break has five more minutes, then whoever is asking you to do something has to wait five more minutes. If you get a half-hour for lunch, go out of the office to take it.

        1. AKchic*

          Exactly. That is what I would do.

          “I’m sorry, but I am following the time policy. You can’t have it both ways and only benefitting you. That would just be silly.”

          1. Sans*

            Exactly. They lose way more of my time when they get anal about arrival times. Because it’s true – it only works one way, THEIR way. When you leave at the stroke of 5, somehow that’s not the same thing.

        2. Jamie*

          Exactly. When left to my own devices I end up working more than required, but the times I’ve been nickel and dimed on time I become quite the clock watcher.

          1. Admiral Thrawn Is Still Blue*

            Years back I had a very old school administrator. He’d retired from the Air Force, plus he was in his 80s, so that was his training and inclination.

            He insisted on to the minute timekeeping. Which I provided… I will never forget the day he complained that he could not complain about this, since I was extremely good at clocking in and out to the absolute minute. Ha!

          2. noahwynn*

            Same. A former company had a managment change and transitioned from flexible hours to having us all there at 8am each morning. Well, I transitionted to never staying late and always taking lunch.

        3. LunaLena*

          I worked for a place that had similarly draconian policies (they didn’t actually fine us for being late, instead we had a points system. One point in a year meant you wouldn’t get a vacation day next year, six were grounds for firing, and “car trouble” was not considered a valid reason for being late), and going out of the office to take lunch would have just added more stress. I used to watch people literally run across the office from the break room, timecard in an outstretched hand, to get it stamped at the clock so they wouldn’t get a point for taking a 31-minute lunch. I can’t even imagine how bad it would have been if they had to worry about traffic and parking as well. You couldn’t make up the time either – if you were late, you got dinged, no ifs ands or buts.

          I’ll still never forget when I got my first paycheck and it came with a little stub that said something like “You were [3] minutes late on [date] and have been given [1] point for a total of [1] points this year.” Not surprisingly it turned out to be a really crappy place to work (I didn’t choose to work there, I was a kind of inherited staff) and I left within a couple of months.

          1. Goopy GilsCarbo*

            That is absolutely insane! I find it hard to believe that it would be legal to restrict an employee’s vacation days based on this system. I’m glad you were able to get out of there.

            1. 2 Cents*

              In the U.S., vacation time isn’t mandated, so it can be given and taken at the company’s will. Of course, companies who run like ^this have trouble holding on to people because that policy of being late 3x in a YEAR = losing a vacation day is just insane.

              1. Turtlewings*

                Not even three times — ONCE. Being late ONCE a year equalled a lost vacation day. Yeah, I’d be out of there as fast as my feet could carry me.

            2. mark132*

              My company converted to “unlimited” vacation and wiped all the existing vacation hours off the books.

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                They tried to do that at our office and there was almost a revolt for this very reason. The CEO still says he doesn’t understand why people don’t want unlimited PTO, and all of us just think in our heads (then say to each other) “because it’s almost impossible to use our time off as it is now when managers have to let you use it before you cap out/lose days. If there is NO mandated PTO there is NO incentive to allow the time off. And no payout if you leave without using your time. We aren’t stupid, man.”

    3. Loves Libraries*

      OP, I’ve been thinking about you since you posted in January. Glad that the policy has stopped.

    4. LGC*

      On one hand you’re right but on the other I’m just glad they stopped (even if it was for the wrong reasons).

  2. KimberlyR*

    My anxiety would NEVER let me work there. I would not be able to cope. LW, you know yourself best so if you’re happy staying at this place, thats fine. But this isn’t normal or healthy in a workplace, at least not at any I’ve ever heard about. So glad you don’t have to pay fines anymore! (And for the record, if I was late enough to cough up a whole day’s pay, I would just call in. I don’t work for free.)

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I can understand not paying for time not worked if the employee is hourly – but finding people for being late – especially a fine that in under an hour could more than equal a a days wages…….

      1. Quill*

        Even then, most sane places will go “if you were 10 minutes late due to unpredictable traffic you can stay 10 minutes after your usual leaving time to make it up.”

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed Quill, my boss does this when possible. But I can also understand that making up the time on the end of a shift may also not always be possible. I guess it comes down to your boss doing the best to create an environment where the people there feel valued and appreciated, and where things are as fair as possible for everyone.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I think what I’m saying got misunderstood (and for reference I have lots of experience with jobs that are hourly shift-based that come complete with time clocks). Pay people for all the time they work, and if possible let them make it up on the back end of a shift. However there are some times where it just doesn’t work out to let the employee make up the time on the back end of the shift.

              1. Quill*

                Oh, yeah. It didn’t sound like OP’s job actually was ongoing coverage or shift work, so I got confused.

        2. Peter the Bubblehead*

          My job has a strict 40 hour work week policy. If you’re late one day, make it up at the end. …Or the next day. …Or sometime before Friday. As long as you work your 40 hours in the week.

        3. Amethystmoon*

          Right, ours is like that. We would have to work the 10 minutes to make up for it, unless we wanted to get docked for ten minutes. They at least treat us like grown ups.

      2. Judy Rootytooty*

        The fine is up to minimum wage. So if the letter writer gets paid $90 for an 8hr day, and is 45 minutes late, then the fine should not be more than =$90-(7.15 x minimum wage)

        It should not be the whole days pay, because she should be paid at least minimum wage for the hours she does work.

      3. Hush42*

        Right- our hourly employees are paid down to the minute so if they’re not here on time they just don’t get paid until they are here. If you want to be 5 minutes late every day then either make it up at some point during the week or accept a paycheck for 39.92 hours instead of 40. I really don’t understand any other policy- shouldn’t not getting paid for that time in and of itself be the punishment?

        I will admit- I honestly don’t care at all if my employees are late. This has translated into one particular employee being chronically late. But she always puts in 40 hours and nothing major ever happens in that first 5 to 20 minutes of the day that would make a huge difference. I do know that she is capable of being on time if I actually cared- she worked in a different department before coming to mine where she was required to be on time (it was a necessity- she answered the phones). But since I don’t enforce it she comes in when she’s ready- and she’s far less stressed than she was when she was forcing herself to try to be on time everyday.

        1. MayLou*

          I’m currently late (5-15 minutes, 30 minutes twice in seven months) more often than I’m on time. I’m more punctual in the summer but when I’m getting up in the dark it is really, really hard for me to wake up fast enough to get out of the house. Setting an earlier alarm doesn’t help because it’s darker then! I’m even MORE likely to fall asleep again! I am saving up for a sunrise alarm clock but in the meantime I bless my manager and her reasonable approach to time. There’s no need for me to be at my desk at 9am on the dot, but often it’ll be tricky to leave at 5pm on the dot, so it is ideal when I stay a bit later to finish off what I’m doing/wrap up a phone call.

          My previous job before this one, I lost for a number of frankly silly reasons (and a few that were valid concerns, but overall it was handled badly) and one of them was that I was one minute late once. My punctuality didn’t affect anyone else, and in fact we’d discussed on my first day the fact that my chronic fatigue makes it hard for me to get up in the morning and I was told that as long I was present during core hours of 10am – 4pm, I could arrange my hours to suit me. But that turned out to be a theoretical policy. Trying to take advantage of it in practice? FIRED.

    2. CR*

      I wouldn’t be able to cope either. I have anxiety around being late, and having this policy would just further negatively impact my mental health. Thank goodness I work in an organization where everyone is treated like an adult. I accidentally slept in this morning (not a great start to a Monday) and I arrived to work 45 minutes later than I would have liked. No one cared.

    3. Degen from Upcountry*

      It seems surprisingly difficult for companies to come up with attendance incentives that actually don’t incentivize employees to just stay home when they know they’re going to be late.

      1. oh yeah by the way*

        I can think of a few incentives off the top of my head, but that’s because they’re incentives, not punishments for not adhering.

      2. Antilles*

        Nah, it’s super simple. All you need to do is:
        1.) Provide a reasonable level of PTO
        2.) Understand that flexibility goes both ways
        3.) Don’t nickel and dime employees on minor bullcrap
        4.) Recognize that you are hiring human beings and life can sometimes throw curveballs
        5.) Evaluate attendance and punctuality in terms of its impact on work rather than purely “butts in seats”
        6.) Address individual issues with attendance on an individual basis, considering items #2 to #5.
        Problem solved, no need for any “incentive” or “punishment” or etc programs.

      3. Soft Gray*

        Honestly, it reminds me of high school. The increasing tardiness punishments my public school had – PLUS individual classes piling additional attendance punishments per the teacher’s whim – meant calling in sick to have an excused absence and staying home all day was far better in most cases. I suffered from depression near the end of high school and remember a few days in tears asking Mom to call me in sick, and I was a high achieving student. To avoid a single class period, you’d have to miss them all, essentially. Good prep for some work environments, apparently.

        College was such a breath of fresh air for me.

  3. Sergeant Fixalot*

    One of the rare moments I am grateful for Glassdoor (I am guessing this was were the posts were made)

    1. Rayray*

      I think glassdoor is a great tool. I think it’s good for job hunters to get a feel for the company. If you see one bad review amongst mostly positive or neutral reviews, you can figure it was a more isolated problem. If there are many bad reviews with detailed explanations, you can pass on applying. It is too bad though that more places don’t look at those reviews and try to actually change the real problem. Like the first comment pointed out, they stopped the fines but probably not the real core problems of the company.

      1. The Original K.*

        I also find the compensation and interview sections very useful. The interview section has info like what kind of questions or assessments to expect, as well as “I was a finalist, went through three rounds, and they ghosted me” type stuff.

      2. MarsJenkar*

        And if both the good and bad reviews have details pointing in the same direction (e.g. both talk about a fast-paced culture), one can surmise that assessment is accurate.

      3. Jedi Squirrel*

        I actually use them to evaluate potential suppliers. If they have unhappy employees, they are probably not going to be a good supplier. But if there is a lot of positivity in the reviews, with actual examples, then I figure if they treat their employees well, they’re going to be producing a good product.

        1. Happy Lurker*

          I now do the same. I had one particular vendor for years whose service began to slip. I looked them up and the negative reviews had started the same time frame as my issues. It was a sure sign to change.

      4. Inside Looking Out*

        Quick disclaimer on Glassdooor: they have a policy against removing fake reviews. I used to work for a non-profit that was hell on earth for staff but our volunteers loved us. So our volunteers would leave fake reviews about “working” there to inflate our Glassdoor rating– in positions that we didn’t have, in “branch offices” that didn’t exist, and talk about how every day was a dream come true. They also, each and every one, “forgot” to disclose that they were volunteers and not staff.

        The negative reviews were from the staff that actually, yanno, WORKED THERE. We were trying to be honest so new employees would know what they were getting into. I repeatedly emailed Glassdoor, from my work account, with proof that these fake reviews were indeed fake. Glassdoor, in turn, repeatedly refused to do anything about them.

        After that I always took Glassdoor with a truck full of salt. They don’t care about the quality of info on their platform, just the quantity.

        1. Karo*

          I think Glassdoor is really most useful in telling you what companies to run away from immediately. If they have overwhelmingly negative reviews, leave now. If they have moderate to good reviews, you can use Glassdoor to point you to what questions to ask, but you have to think critically and do your own due diligence through interviews.

        2. Gazebo Slayer*

          I’ve heard of Glassdoor actually removing real negative reviews because companies kicked up a fuss.

            1. tiffbunny*

              Our company had the opposite experience – a former employee left a review that had 2 paragraphs of what they admitted up front were rumors: it literally started with “I’ve heard rumours that…” and what followed was scathing, factually untrue, and really easily disproven. (I.E. the person made claims about women being pushed out of HR – when every hire into HR over the last year happened to be female, bringing the team tally to 2 men and 6+ women!)

              We sent about 15 forms of (independently verified) proof to Glassdoor covering off every aspect of the libelous review, and they told us (we’re an EU company) that their hands were tied and that nothing short of suing them *in California* would allow them to break their own community guidelines to remove the provably false review. Utter nonsense.

              Separately, I’ve been to a number of their conferences and events over the past several years as I work in the same industry but I’ve always found them particularly low quality and time-wasting. Their speakers never have any actual data, insights, or expertise, their events are terrible all-razzle no-value sales pitches (with $%^ amazing wine though!) and in general they’ve just been absolute dicks to deal with.

        3. Pretzelgirl*

          One of previous jobs had a slew of really great reviews for the company. The company was ok, but had a lot of serious issues. Low pay, and terrible vacation policies being one of them. Turns out the CEO emailed our staff that had been there for 15+ years, begging them to leave a good review. I just laughed. I left about a month later and made sure to include that in my review, on Glass door.

        4. ...*

          They do actually remove reviews sometimes though. At my former company someone left a SCATHING (but completely accurate) review and a few days later a call with Glassdoor was on the HR managers (public) calendar and a few days later the review was gone…

        5. Tau*

          I actually saw the opposite problem for my old company – there was a review blasting them which complained about being pushed to work long hours and said the great location with lots of lunch options was the only good thing about the place. There was a somewhat befuddled response by the HR team asking them to please double-check that they had the right company, and I had to agree that this person seemed confused. Not only was the place very strict about people not working past their contracted hours, I also had to bring a packed lunch every day because it was in the middle of the industrial district with zero food options nearby. But the review is on Glassdoor now and seems intent on staying there.

      5. lemon*

        It is too bad though that more places don’t look at those reviews and try to actually change the real problem.

        Or worse, they look at the reviews and fix it by posting fake positive reviews instead of actually changing the real problem.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Yes! The more people speak out the better. Now I wonder how many people outside the company mentioned the negative reviews, to see how much does it take for them to notice.

    3. Anonymouse*

      A word of caution against Glassdoor is that they will remove large swarths of negative reviews if your employer is insistent enoough. My old toxic hellhole had a 2.7 rating from 30+ reviews with 10 most recent being very negative due to the ongoing litigation re abusive labor practices and general abuse by senior management. One of the project directors took it upon himself to report this to the senior management and they launched an all out war against the reviews. They succeeded in removing 9/10 most recent reviews due to them have info that would ID senior management members (which is because the behavior described is so outlandish that there’s no other way to properly state what it’s like to work there). The cherry on top was his own personal review shooting down every negative review which have now been removed and calling the staff, current and past, “self-victimizing” and “ungrateful” individuals. That review has not been removed…

      1. OrigCassandra*

        I don’t think his review will achieve what he thinks it will, however… I would RUN-not-walk away from a boss calling staff names like that, and a company allowing him to do it.

        1. fposte*

          Yeah, this is like those Yelp or TripAdvisor reviews where the proprietor responds indignantly and rantily to every negative review.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            I LIVE for these owner responses, they are so much more telling than any review ever. Give that owner more rope, more rope!

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          Exactly. If I see a review that starts with anything resembling, “these other posters are spoiled/disgruntled/bad apples. I don’t know what they are talking about, this place is great with above average pay.” I immediately have flags go off in my head. Legit reviews almost never mention the “other commenters” but it’s a pretty common thing for management/HR to try to plant if they think they need to do damage control.

      2. Karo*

        I remember at my old company we had horrible reviews, and I was supposed to write the company’s responses about how it’s actually not that bad.

        The problem is that it was that bad, and I refused to lie, so we could only really refute 1 in 10 of the bad reviews. I posted the responses I did write anyway, so it amounted to us popping in on occasion to say “the pay is commiserate with others in the area and industry,” and tacitly agreeing to the rest.

      3. Blocked by Glassdoor*

        Yes, this! A former repugnant boss of mine had my negative review removed for the same reason (ID’d senior management). Then when I removed the identifiers and reposted the same review (which again made it through Glassdoor’s moderation system), boss spent a month getting me blocked from the website entirely. I don’t know on what grounds because I never received any notice from Glassdoor (figured it out when I couldn’t login or recover my password or anything). And because they blocked my email address and not simply my account, I can’t even email them to ask why or appeal the termination.
        Also, before someone comes in and says Glassdoor doesn’t block people, they say so right in their terms of use: “You may not use Glassdoor if we have terminated your account or banned you.” https://www.glassdoor.com/about/terms.htm

        1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

          Some fields have their own review sites because Glassdoor is not enough for them. Mine has items like “infrastructure”, “code quality”, “workplace practices”, “equipment”, “localtion”, and “diversity”.

        2. Glitsy Gus*

          Someone once started an anonymous Tumblr account where people could post the real deal about how they felt about the company and the nonsense that went down there. It was epic while it lasted.

          1. Glitsy Gus*

            Er, Someone once started an anonymous Tumblr account ABOUT A COMPANY I WORKED FOR where people could post the real deal about how they felt about the company and the nonsense that went down there. It was epic while it lasted.

            *proofreading is a good thing*

      4. ...*

        Yup this happened at my company. One zinger (totally accurate but hooo boy did they get roasted) got their attention and a few days later it was down. I believe the excuse was that since there was only one person in “HR”, saying “HR” meant an individual could be identified….Lol.

      5. QC*

        Yeah, just wanted to second this. My employer has removed all but 5 of the reviews made in the last year, and all of the removed reviews (maybe 15 of them?) had 1-2 stars. It became something we all watched in the office: a new review would go up, everyone would get about a day to read it and speculate, and then it would vanish. As Glassdoor got more and more attention, more and more reviews were written, until it became clear nothing was ever going to stay up.

        Most of them were a little dramatic but not wrong, and we’ve been waiting for them to come back up after Glassdoor’s mysterious review process. Nothing ever has.

  4. Rayray*

    I really wonder why some management believe that treating people like children will get results. So long as someone shows up and does what is asked, and is there for important meetings, does it really matter if their butt was in their chair at 9:00 or 9:15? I went from.a job with flexible scheduling, show up whenever is best doe you but try to be in before 10:00 and Don’t leave before 3:00, unless of course you talked to them about appointments, family needs etc. The difference between that and now when I have a strict schedule is stark. I was much happier not having to be strictly 9-5.

      1. Rayray*

        Yeah, so true. I think it’s so interesting the way people get on those power trips as soon as they get the manager title.

      2. Snark*

        And in my observation, there’s just an awful lot of folks who conflate the concept of management and leadership with the use and exercise of power. The Tao Te Ching had it right – the wise king is unknown to his subjects.

        1. Rayray*

          Definitely… I have experienced this in all my work places. There’s one manager that sticks out to me – I worked at a call center at the end of senior year of high school and through college. This one manager had started out making calls and worked up to manager. He was always there to listen and he really tried his best to fix issues he could. At my “grown up” jobs, my managers have just been about churning out as much work as possible, but not caring to listen to workers when they have ideas to get work done more efficiently as opposed to just having their butt in their seat or checking off the boxes for our clients. A coworker and I were berated at my old job for meeting with our managers to talk about our ideas on how to run thibgs more smoothly. There were two of us, and we were told a third would be hired to be part of our team. Guess management didn’t want their egos hurt by having people who actually did the job day-to-day come up with ideas to improve accuracy and get the job done more efficiently.

          1. Allypopx*

            Yep. If I’m a manager and I hear that a trainer is saying “this is what we’re supposed to do but I do it this way” I really want to know! If there’s a reason it really shouldn’t be done that way then I obviously want to know that – but if it’s really better, or even just better for *some* people – that can make things run better and I should find ways to incorporate different systems.

        2. Crooked Bird*

          The closest I ever got to managing was having an intern assistant, and the occasional help of other interns, in my section of a very labor-intensive small business. I had to be gone for a week (I forget why) and left my assistant in charge of the section with a task list.

          When I came back, she hadn’t completed the task list (I hadn’t really expected her to, ours is a tough gig, though she’d figured she could totally handle it) but she *had* managed to piss off every single one of the other interns. Even though they mostly weren’t even on our *site*, she’d somehow daily found some way to throw her weight around with them–denying them the use of shared equipment (which of course she wasn’t even using), etc.

          She had no vision of “in charge” that didn’t fundamentally mean ordering people around. To this day eight years later I wish I’d come down on her a lot harder for it, or, even better, told her she’d failed the test & requested the manager to give me a different assistant for my desirable section. I know exactly who, too…

      3. Chili*

        I think it’s definitely partially this. And for a lot of people who don’t understand good management yet, timeliness is one of the few things that is easily observable and feels like they can execute control of. I think timeliness is also often very much tied to respect for a lot of people, so employee tardiness can feel like a jab when it really isn’t (meetings are important to be on time for and it is disrespectful to be chronically late when people are waiting for you, but arrival time at work often doesn’t affect anyone in a significant portion of jobs).

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          People who make it clear they think employees being two minutes late are “disrespecting” them are demonstrating that they don’t actually deserve respect.

        2. BethDH*

          Some managers have a hard time with having individual conversations with people whose lateness is actually relevant and causing problems. So they resort to blanket extreme policies to avoid individual feedback or out of a desire to have an “objective” or “fair” policy. Lots of people think fairness means the exact same requirements for everyone.

    1. Snark*

      Pretty much exactly this. There’s absolutely no benefit to micromanaging anyone like this, and the resentment and frustration it builds is killer, particularly when the company or management inevitably cuts themselves procedural slack not afforded the rank and file.

      1. T2*

        When I got my last job, they were not able to pay me the salary I wanted immediately. So I accepted on the basis that I could get rid of the time clock. We had other departments where coverage was needed from 9 when the phones opened. I can see a need for punctuality there. But we didn’t need it because we billed based on billable hours.

        So we got paid on entering our time tracking system. Which meant that we were better at our billing on time. Win win

    2. Catsaber*

      One of my former managers (private university) did this because she was extremely image-conscious, and the president of the university was a micromanager. He’d make random stops around campus at odd times to make sure people were working according to his standards. We were required to be in our seats with computer on and ready at 8am “just in case” a professor called at 8am and needed help with something (it happened maybe once the 2.5 years I was there). There was a culture of fear at that school – you had to look and act a certain way to be accepted, even if your actual work output was shit.

    3. Mop.*

      I mean, for some jobs it does really matter. If Nurse has just finished a 12-hour shift in the emergency room, I can see why it’s important for Nurse B to be on time to cover her.

      But for office teams, yeah, I just give them rough time parameters and tell them to keep their calendar updated.

      1. WS*

        And for the jobs where it really does matter, there’s usually a handover period built in! For most hospitals it’s half an hour, in some critical areas it’s longer.

  5. The Original K.*

    I still think management was pocketing that money. I’m glad the practice has stopped and glad folks blew the whistle on it – they were right to.

    1. Lizzy May*

      This. I still want to know where that money went because I have a feeling it wasn’t above board.

    2. Sharrbe*

      I can also picture them pressing every button on the elevator repeatedly between 8:55 and 9:05. Or planting janitor carts and wet floor signs in the lobby. Or disabling the front doors so that everyone has to use another entrance.

      1. Anon Here*

        That was my thought too. A manager needs some extra cash so they intentionally make people late. There are just too many ways for that policy to be abused.

    3. Antilles*

      They were 100% putting that money in their own personal pocket. No question in my mind.
      Why? Because they insisted on only cash. If it was actually money getting reinvested into the coffers of the business, you would allow payment via credit card or check or etc; for accounting and legal reasons you might even *prefer* some form of trackable payment.

      1. Dove*

        Agreed. If this were anything like legit (stupid and probably still illegal to be doing, but at least the money not being pocketed), then there would be a paper trail of *some* sort.

        The fact that they were insisting on cash only, and (from what I recall*) not even providing receipts or anything, means they were doing their best to prevent a paper trail from existing at all. Which would, if anyone tipped off – say – the IRS or the labour board or anyone else in a position of authority whose eyebrows might be raised about this nonsense, it’d become a “he said, she said” situation, with no evidence on the employee’s side that it actually happened.

        (*Double-checking the original letter, there’s no mention of whether or not receipts were provided. I doubt they were, though.)

        Five gets you ten that not only did the policy stop because of the bad PR, but it stopped because someone higher up than whoever was doing the collection got wind of this and was about to start investigating into whether or not it was true.

    4. Dagny*

      I’m wondering about the legal aspects of taking cash for this. It’s not like a “donate $5 and wear jeans on Friday” thing, where the $5 goes to charity. If they are reducing pay by $2/minute, then the proper way to do this would be to take it out of the paycheck and adjust taxes and withholdings accordingly… right? I’m not an employment or tax attorney, but taking post-tax cash to dock pay seems inherently problematic (beyond the fact that you can’t really do this to exempt employees).

    5. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      That to me was the biggest question from the original post – where was the money from the fines going to? It was all in cash after all……

  6. ThatGirl*

    I’m the kind of person who is basically never late, and I only live 15 minutes from work so I’m usually 10 minutes early. And yet. This would drive me absolutely bananas because I don’t want to work for people who micromanage my time.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Yes, this. I am usually early to work in general, and yet the number of times my train got stuck in the tunnel “there’s a disabled train up ahead guys we’ll be moving shortly” and shortly means 45 minutes…

    2. The Original K.*

      I’m the same way. I’m one of those people who gets places early and chronically late people drive me nuts. But making this big a deal – FINING PEOPLE – over sixty seconds is bonkers and I wouldn’t want to work there.

    3. Lygeia*

      I am also a person that gets to work (and everywhere else) habitually early, and I’d want to tear my hair out at this place. Occasional lateness happens. I commute to work by train, and so I have been late for reasons entirely out of my control (I once was stuck on a train, one stop before I was supposed to get off, for about an hour because of a person committing suicide on the tracks. And that’s only the most tragic and dramatic instance). An employee’s pattern of tardiness, if punctuality is an important part of the job, ought to be addressed. But people shouldn’t be so scared of being late by even a minute that they are sending panicked photos from the elevator.

      1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

        “But people shouldn’t be so scared of being late by even a minute that they are sending panicked photos from the elevator.”

        I wonder if any such photos were successful in excusing anyone from having to pay a fine. I kinda doubt it…

    4. Natalia*

      I am big on being on time. And people who are always late annoy me. That said, fining employees for being late is crossing the line. There are other ways to deal with tardiness in the workplace….

      1. fposte*

        That’s the irony they don’t realize–this is turning off the employees with the habit they *do* want, not just the ones with the pattern they’re hoping to discourage.

    5. kneadmeseymour*

      I am also punctual to a fault, but I realize that is more about my anxiety than anything rational. I’m guessing that in workplaces like this, it’s more about maintaining a feeling of control over employees than an actual need to have people there at precisely 9:00, not one minute later.

    6. Light37*

      As a fellow punctual person, I would also find this policy really, really irritating. If your policy is so draconian that people are taking pictures to prove they’re in a broken elevator to avoid being penalized, then you need to rethink it before someone has a breakdown of their own.

  7. EPLawyer*

    The accountants would actually show up and ask for the cash? What happened if someone said “No?” And they thought the accountants personally asking for the cash was a good look? Until they found out it wasn’t?

    So glad they stopped this practice. But ugh, so unreasonable. Even with butts in the seats, unless it is a shift change (where you are making someone wait for you) a minute or two is not going to make a difference. Are the clocks 100% accurate and never lose even a second?

    1. Antilles*

      The cash part is the most mystifying to me. I still wonder what would have happened if you opened your wallet and there was nothing in it.
      Like, our office has a weekly football pick’em and every single week there’s *at least* 2-3 people who don’t actually have even a single dollar in cash in their wallet. The idea that you would expect every employee to randomly have cash every single day is absolutely incredible in the age of debit cards, credit cards, Venmo, etc.

      1. Observer*

        I suspect that the reason this was in cash is because it actually is not (completely) legal where the OP is and this way it can’t be tracked. But since some people posted on GlassDoor it’s out in the open.

        That would also explain why they never told anyone that the policy was dropped – they want to pretend that it never happened.

        1. Dove*

          Oh, I would absolutely not be surprised if the reason that it got dropped without there being any announcement about it is that they’re trying to pretend it never happened. My bet would be that someone higher up the line found out about the whole thing *via* the Glassdoor reviews and was starting to investigate into whether or not it was true, and the people responsible for this nonsense are hoping that the trail will go cold enough that they won’t get fired over it.

        2. Antilles*

          Oh, I completely agree that was the reason why the boss wanted cash.
          I was more wondering what would the boss have done if boss says “9:06, that’ll be $12” and OP pulls out her wallet, opens it to show it’s empty, and goes “I don’t carry cash; would you like Visa or Mastercard?”

      2. Lexin*

        One of the things I’m endlessly grateful for with my current employer is flexi-time. I have never worked anywhere where they didn’t have flexi time, and I can’t imagine having to be at my desk on time every day. For one thing, I travel by Underground (London metro equivalent) and at least once a week we get something go massively wrong. If it’s not ‘person under a train’ (i.e. a suicide) it’s signal failure or leaves on the line. You can never be sure you’re going to get there by 9am.

        1. 'Tis Me*

          Or the wrong kind of snow? ;) I think it’s been quite a few years since they actually used that excuse but some things people don’t forget!

    2. Kate R*

      On the flip side of this, I was wondering what happened if someone was proactive is paying off their “debt” and approached the accountants themselves. Were they told fining was no longer a policy or were the accountants happy to take their money as long as they didn’t have to ask for it? Based on them quietly scrapping the policy without actually telling anyone it was scrapped, I would not be surprised if it was the latter.

      1. Lance*

        Nor would I. But good freaking lord is it skeevy that the accountants were in on this. Given that little tidbit, it makes me really believe that this was completely off the record… to which point, everyone involved should be in big trouble for allowing/encouraging this nonsense.

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      So many questions on this…how is this legal? Not to mention $2 per MINUTE??? That’s $120 per hour – I’m pretty sure the people they were making pay didn’t make that kind of money. Even if they only get paid for the time they actually work, that amount does not compute.

    4. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Call centers are notorious for this clocking behavior, even when it’s not a shift change type of place. I worked in one for a while & we were docked on our performance evals if we had more than one or two late clock-ins per year. That included coming back from lunch breaks. And they also monitored our bathroom break time. It was freaking miserable, everyone hated it, but we all needed the paycheck.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        My husband worked at an insurance company with a large call center near us. He had a couple late arrivals, he was dinged for on his review. The worst was if you left for an emergency during the day you were dinged. While he was there I had a miscarriage and he left to be with me. He was dinged for this. He was also dinged when I had to be rushed to the ER for complications following it. A few years later he wanted to apply for a new position and he was told no bc he left early for those two things. He was otherwise a stellar employee, who received a lot of recognition. He left shortly after, because of it.

  8. Foreign Octopus*

    It’s Christmas!!! I have been looking forward to the December updates through all of November and then completely forgot. Thank you, Alison!

    And thanks to you, OP, for the update!

  9. Allypopx*

    I have absolutely worked places where “on time is late” or there are work-related reasons that you need to be punctual – and it REALLY threw me for a loop when I got my current job and asked what my hours were and they were like “Eh, whatever you want. We are generally open 8-6 so be here somewhere in that window.

    HUGE culture shock. Going from this setup to OP’s level of time management might actually break me.

    Also the online feedback didn’t tarnish your image, company. You tarnished your image by being asshats.

  10. Notasecurityguard*

    And to think I was like an hour late to work this morning and got a “thank you” from my boss (although part of why I was so late was I had to go to a different job site this morning and found out on my way out the door and part of it was the snow, which was supposed to be rain, turned my commute into a homeric epic)

    1. Anonny*

      When one considers the size of the wine-dark Aegean featured in the Odyssey, your analogy becomes much funnier.

      1. Notasecurityguard*

        I feel like there’s something in there. An adaptation of the odyssey but the guy is just trying to get home from work

  11. Pretzelgirl*

    Since college pretty much every job I have had, has been a 30-60 min commute. Traffic is unpredictable and I am late probably once a week, despite my best efforts. This practice is ridiculous.

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yeah, and OP obviously couldn’t possibly live in a city where unpredictable traffic is a thing. Where I live in a large northeast city, at least two of my 14 coworkers are late at least once a week because public transportation and traffic are entirely unpredictable. Everyone here completely understands that that is how things are here. This company would get a LOT more pushback if they were in such a crowded metropolitan area.

    2. Deejay*

      I was once VERY late for work because a goods vehicle dropped a load of mayonnaise on the motorway. So we had to wait for a lane to be cleaned up. Fortunately I didn’t have to explain it to my boss because he was even later than I was for the same reason.

  12. Allypopx*

    Oh question – was this in response to the $90 fine or did OP still have to pay that one and this came up later? I hope they didn’t have to pay $90 before this got flagged as ridiculous :(

    1. Manon*

      From the letter: “As I waited for the day where the accountants would swing by my desk to collect the cash from me as they used to, that day somehow never arrived.”

      It sounds like the $90 was never collected! :)

  13. hbc*

    Glad they changed the policy, but sad you’re still there, OP. There are other places with lovely coworkers and engaging work that don’t, say, make you frantic that someone pushed five floors on the elevator or pay you $90/day for excellent work and good reviews or make you get a doctor’s note for a single day off.

    Don’t let the fact that they removed this one turd of a policy distract you from the giant pile of manure that still remains, based on your comments in the original post.

    1. WellRed*

      yes, this wasn’t quite the update I had hoped for for you and your coworkers OP. But I am glad you won’t be in the financial hole over being late.

    2. Thany*

      This. If a company is micromanaging your time like this, there are likely other dysfunctional practices lurking beneath. I’m glad you like your coworkers and your job, but be aware of any other dysfunction. Remember they didn’t change the late policy for their staff, they changed it for their reputation.

  14. NW Mossy*

    At this point, I’d assume this is the missing stair of this job, where everyone just works around it even though it’s objectively broken by any reasonable measure.

    The main way I’ve seen cultural touchstones change is when there’s rapid and widespread turnover in upper-level leadership – think a division leader being replaced and then handpicking their own direct reports. You have to sweep away at least 50% of the senior leaders within a relatively short span (12-18 months or so) to be sure that you’ve washed away both the originating rationale for the policy and those who’ve behaviorally evolved to support it structurally. Anything less and it regrows even if someone’s able to stamp it out in their own small patch.

  15. Kimmybear*

    I actually declined a second interview for a job in part because they apply their ridiculous on-time policy to all employees, not just those in the call center. It was a job that required travel and some early morning preparation (e.g. 8am setup for a 9am training even though your hours were 9-5) so being that obnoxious with their on-time policy indicated it might not be a place for me.

    1. oh yeah by the way*

      Same to me. Well, not declining a job over it, but if they’re not flexible with me, I won’t be flexible with them. I used to work a job that didn’t require you to take sick time if you just had to leave an hour early or so for a doctors appointment. I would stay late on that job repeatedly.

      Then they told us to start documenting every minute of sick leave, no leaving a little early, no coming in a little late. I stopped staying late. If they’re gonna be careful with my time, I’m gonna be careful with my time, too.

  16. pcake*

    My husband had a co-worker who was on a train that had an accident, so he was 2 1/2 hours late to work through no fault at all of his own. Imagine someone in that situation being fined!

    1. WellRed*

      This company probably would have fined not only your husband, but the person hit by the train, as well!

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      During my time at OldJob I was affected by all sorts of transport hiccups (accidents, delays, strikes, medical emergencies, etc), and our workaround was to email our manager. However, that didn’t mean we were free of the receptionist’s side-eye, who took our lateness as a personal offense.

  17. NPOQueen*

    Good Lord, I would be fired so fast. I take public transit into work, which is highly unpredictable on any given day. Sometimes I arrive at 9am, sometimes 9:10am. But I do my required time and if I’m late, I stay late to make up for it. I would have had to find another job immediately if they were that punctual, because it’s not in my DNA to be right on time for anything.

  18. ElizabethJane*

    I commute via train. In my two years of doing this I have been delayed by 3 trains that hit pedestrians. I was on one of them. I typically arrive at work at 8:30 but on that day I got to the office at noon.

    There would have been a physical fight if someone tried to fine me $420 for that.

    I mean, I’d push back on paying $10 but yeah… no. That’s not OK. Glad the stopped the practice OP but also irritated that they didn’t own up to it and did it the easy way.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I commute via train also, and just this year I have been delayed at least twice if not three or four times just due to pedestrians being hit by a train. I have also been delayed several other times due to medical emergencies on the train, usually someone throwing up but on occasion something more serious, mechanical problems.

      My position does not require hard but in at a certain time, but if I am late I usually just make up the time at the end of the day.

  19. oh yeah by the way*

    Oh my goodness. On the one hand, I’m so glad the accountants (!!!!!!!!!) never came to you to demand cash (!!!!!!!!!) for the audacity, nah, the heinous crime of being late. But on the other hand, that is only half the problem and there is a toxic culture going on here. This isn’t calling your boss because you’re stuck in traffic and will be late. TAKING PICTURES IN AN ELEVATOR while you are IN THE PHYSICAL BUILDING… good lord.

    I’m glad you like your coworkers. I hope you all band together and defend your sense of what’s normal, because this is not.

  20. BeckySuz*

    What killed me in the original post was how brainwashed the poor OP was. She actually thought she deserved to be “punished” over essentially being human. Sometimes humans oversleep, it happens. And she’s a good employee. What kind of toxic culture allows this sort of insanity to take hold?

    1. Teapot Lover*

      as someone who survived an abusive relationship – this type of gaslighting is so so common. Not just in intimate relationships, but also in workplaces. You just completely lose your sense of what is normal and healthy and what isn’t.

      1. Book Badger, Attorney-at-Claw*

        Time to recommend Issendai’s Sick Systems post again, because I think it’s apt.

  21. Granger Chase*

    You have to send pictures so that you are not fined for being trapped in an elevator…that is so beyond the realm of what is normal in a workplace. I am glad the policy is no longer in place, but when it was only changed because it was affecting their external image and not because they realized it was a horrible policy, there is no lesson learned there. I would take heed of what other commenters have said that there are plenty of other places with lovely people & interesting work that do not treat their employees like children.
    Also yes, seriously, where was this money going?? The fact that they were having accountants show up at your desk to shake you down for cash adds an extra layer of icky to this.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Okay – I have had a coworker that did that before a shift started, but it was to let us know where they were so that we didn’t worry about them.

  22. Bagpuss*

    YEs, unless your job is time-critical due to a ned for coverage then as long as you are getting the job done it is not a major issue.

    We did have to explain (repeatedly) to a junior staff member who was responsible for covering reception that yes, he did need to be on time because his job involved manning the front desk which needs to be done as soon as the doors open, and that no, this did not mean that he could or should be tracking when any other employee came in or left.

        1. Em*

          Had a boss once joke (it really was a joke) before a big event that, if we were late or out unexpectedly he’d be happy to accept a doctor’s note . . . from a coroner.

  23. Allypopx*

    Sorry to triple comment but, OP – please remember that this kind of culture of stress can be really bad for your health over time. Even if you’re on time regularly, the anxiety from your coworkers and the micromanaging from your boss can really wear down on you. Just as someone who has had real health complications from work stress – take care of yourself.

  24. QuinleyThorne*

    It’s the mooooost won-fer-ful tiiiiime of the yeeeaaarrrr

    I’ll never understand tardy-policing on that level, especially when your job duties don’t require it. For customer facing positions, I get it; it’s not a good look to have a customer walk in to an empty desk. But for internal, back-end stuff? Like…why?

    1. Guacamole Bob*

      And if it’s really that important, schedule sufficient staff to start before the business opens to customers. Like if you really expect the help desk phone lines to start wringing off the hook at 9, or people will start walking in for 9 a.m. appointments, maybe schedule someone to start at 8:30? That way if they’re a minute or two late, or if the computer system takes an unusually long time to log on, or if the supply of pens at the front desk is low and they need to go to the supply room, or whatever, customers won’t be affected.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


        I ripped my doctor’s office open in a survey they sent because they obviously don’t have staff come in until 8:15 am which is exactly when they start scheduling appointments! I got an 8:15 slot because I was like “Oh that’s cool, they probably give 15 minutes to get the office staff settled…nope.

        I was in the lobby with locked doors until people started sliding in at 8:10ish. Then when they opened the doors a couple minutes after 8:15, they were still booting up their computers. This is not the receptionists being lazy at all, it’s bad scheduling and cheapness on the office for not giving them time to open up the office. So they start out the day with computers who are still warming up while the line is growing in front of their eyes.

        But these places are also angry and refuse to deal with people clocking in even 5 minutes early because “time theft!!!!!’ BS. NO. *feelings everywhere, I felt so many, they spilled everywhere*

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          I worked at a small business as a receptionist one summer in college (a large church – maybe 15 staff and clergy all together), and I got in half an hour before our nominal opening time. It was great to be able to check the voicemail and the fax machine (which tells you how long ago it was), make sure the printers were stocked with paper, see what notes and things had been left from events the night before, and otherwise prepare for the day before taking the phones off the night answering message. It was particularly helpful in the church environment where there were often things going on in the building after business hours, but in a doctor’s office wouldn’t it be nice for the staff to be able to check the voicemail and see which patients have cancelled their appointments or need an emergency prescription refill before patients start lining up in person with their questions?

    2. yala*

      Feel this to my soul.

      I just got a reprimand for tardiness. Which wouldn’t be so frustrating if everyone else in the department didn’t leave 15-20 minutes early every day (so I’m *still* working the same time, or sometimes more).

      I’m kind of wondering if I should e-mail the ADA Coordinator about maybe making it an official accommodation that so long as I make up the time at the end of the day/on breaks, it won’t be a mark against me if I’m 10 minutes late in the morning. Time blindness and ADHD are bestest best friends, and I keep trying to get going earlier, but it feels like I’m never going to consistently manage 7:30 on the dot. But I don’t know if that’s really something covered by it (we’d talked about accommodations before, but at the time I said things were more or less as met as they could be, with regular check-ins and all).

  25. Shay*

    So you regularly work late, un-paid, to keep up with your workload and they were fining you by the minute? Well those two do not work together. Hopefully there is a place in your performance review to write your own assessment of your work and you will have tracked all minutes worked late and multiplied this by $2 and included the ADDED value the company received from you for FREE!!!
    I’d do this going forward regardless that they dropped the fine policy. They didn’t drop the fines because they were unreasonable … they only dropped it because it went public and it reflected poorly on them.

  26. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    THANK YOU for the update, I think this one was one that had me antsy for the update the most just because of the fact they’re so awful bleeding cash from people like dollar vampires. Ick.

    I’m glad they’re no longer shaking you down and robbing you but sucks that you have that kind of archaic gross policy without any leniency.

  27. AI is Watching*

    In the age of AI, your every waking movement are tracked, stored and analyzed. Now comming to a workplace near you.

    At my last job, everyone that worked on the production floor had to scan in and out via face recognition system plus badge swipe. We’re talking at least two hundred people queuing up for lunch, plus two breaks a day and SOD. EOD. There were scanners located all around the building, including one at each exit and two at the break room, so a limited number of scanners was not an issue.

    Working at the company was highly coveted by these employees, as starting wages were $20/hr and moving up to higher paid positions was encouraged. Great benefits and stock options were standard.

    They used to have just badge scanners, but too many were caught clocking in/out for others, so the facial ID systems were installed.

    They had a three strikes policy if you arrived late or left early, with other graduated penalties for daily breaks. All of them lead to termination. You’d get a strike for a 1 minute time discrepancy.

    I saw many great employees get fired over the years, with some of them in project critical positions. There were no exceptions without lead manager approval (which was very rare as managers were reviewed on the number of exceptions they granted). This policy had no mercy for those with long commutes (very common here in the SF Bay area).

    It was also quite common to see people running through the giant parking lot to scan in, even during the 45 minute lunch break.

    I imagine that Amazon and other similar companies have been using these systems over the past several years. My sure as AI gets better and cheaper, the scanners will no longer be needed and you will be identified and tracked while at work, with automated firings comming next.

  28. OhBehave*

    It’s the most wonderful time of the year!
    This was a good update, but the policy was horrible. Take a close look at all the rules in place. Sometimes we tend to become immune to toxic workplaces. If they had this one, there are bound to be others.

  29. MOAS*

    I… am speechless.

    There are 1000+ comments in the original post and I’m not going to go through them, but oh my god whoever came up with this policy deserves a smack upside the head.

    Im a HUGE stickler for being on time/5 minutes early but I would never impose this on anyone else. This is so infuriating on so many levels.

  30. Summertime*

    I have a suggestion: Change the clocks in the office to be a couple minutes slow. Gives everyone a couple minutes breathing room to get into work.

    Also, demand that the office get everyone watches that are atomic clocks. Argue that because clocks can slowly run fast or slow, there’s no guarantee that an employee will reliably be able to tell the time. Use the slow clock as an example.

    Watch chao ensue.

  31. Minta*

    The part about people getting upset in the elevator makes me wonder about what could happen the parking lot. I bet it’s a lot easier to get in an accident or trade some road-rage pleasantries when under this kind of pressure. Will multiple car accidents, a pedestrian getting struck accidentally by someone in a hurry, or the VP getting into a fight with someone get things to change?

  32. Bostonian*

    I just Googled “glassdoor late fine” and was surprised to find multiple companies that do this… :-/

    1. Pebbles*

      I did this too. The Glassdoor comments for these companies are quite appalling (as in, the company is appalling, not the people writing in).

  33. Can't Sit Still*

    I still remember, 20+ years later, a company newsletter announcing the perfect attendance awards, with honorable mention to a guy who almost made it to 5 years of perfect attendance, but he got stuck in traffic behind a multi-vehicle crash with fatalities, so no bonus for him! (He missed out on a $500 bonus, which is a lot of money for someone making $10/hour.)

    1. oh yeah by the way*

      They announced that pettiness?

      Wow. Goes right on my ongoing list of “things leadership says to show how great they are, but actually shows the opposite”, like that one time someone bragged about getting a truck to back up instead of just moving her car to the right like the rest of us do, and then called the truck company to complain about that driver.

      1. Can't Sit Still*

        Yep. There was an honorable mentions list! I believe someone ended up making that right for him (although it may have been his co-workers taking up a collection.) I remember people being outraged about it. Like, how dare? It was totally outrageous, both to do it and to announce it. WTF? Ok, I’m still mad. Poor guy!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Wait. What?

      So let me get this straight. Do you get a $100 for every year you don’t miss a day?! Or was it a special 5 year thing? that after FIVE YEARS of not having perfect attendance, you get a $500 bonus?

      I’ve only ever seen attendance incentives run quarterly and you don’t belly to back them. So you only lose out on a quarterly bonus, which is still annoying and uncool but not as uncool as if you’re getting these annually.

      1. Can't Sit Still*

        It was $100 annually. They did a special “haven’t missed a day in X years” and it was $100 for every year that year. There was a lot wrong with that company, so it definitely serves as an endless well of horrible work stories. My excuse is that I was young and didn’t know any better, plus they were the only employer in a rural area.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          only employer in a rural area.

          *screaming noises* Yeah, that confirms everything I needed to really know. I should have known. Along with the low wages and shame, they love to rub the little hillbilly noses into that mess when they accidentally dare to get behind that tractor on the way to work on that one lane narrow road…yuck.

  34. Richard Hershberger*

    The fines were particularly ridiculous, but the underlying problem of obsession with the clock is still there. The thing is, companies often have two classes of employees: ones the company acknowledges to be human beings, and ones the company regards as meat puppets. The dividing line between the two classes is a matter of hierarchy, but where it is located varies wildly. Stuff happens. Everyone knows this. The employees classed as human beings will be accommodated when stuff happens. The employees classed as meat puppets will not. When stuff happens, that just means they are inefficient meat puppets. If the human being is running late due to traffic or because the kid is sick and has to be dropped off with grandma, it is “Hey, just make it up and get your work done.” The meat puppet should have started earlier and certainly shouldn’t let personal matters interfere with work.

    What I hear from the LW is that the company regards everyone on their level as meat puppets. It may be that sticking around a few years will get the LW promoted to a “human being” level, but perhaps not. Some companies regard everyone below the CEO as meat puppets. But you know what? Some places regard the receptionist and the janitor as human beings. You otherwise love what you do, so look for a company where you can do the same thing, and be regarded as a human being, too.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      This is one of the best observations I have ever seen on AAM! Yes, most companies do have a pretty stark division like that, and to a large extent so does our society as a whole.

    2. emmelemm*

      This is so true. It’s usually a pretty stark class division. People who make $X or below are nickeled and dimed on their meager nickels and dimes, and treated like children. People who make $X or above are “valued employees” who get treated like human beings. C-suite people get to do whatever they want.

    3. Kali*

      Yep, I used to work in a call centre and we were definitely the meat puppets even though the entire business would fall apart if we didn’t do our jobs.

  35. Rebecca*

    I have to wonder if this violates any sort of labor laws. And, like many others, I want to know: where did the cash go? Into the boss’s pocket as undeclared income? Let’s say 5 or 6 people a week were late, by 30 minutes or so, that’s a lot of extra untaxed income in the boss’s pocket. My opinion, OP? Look for another job, and set this place figuratively on fire when you leave, report to whomever would wonder where the cash went in this extortion scheme, because this is what it is – you were being extorted out of cash to keep your job. I am so angry on your behalf!!

    1. yala*

      It feels like it must! I mean, very old school “I owe my soul to the company store” and all–at a certain point, you’d have to be paying to work there.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      For starters, report to the state Department of Labor (wage theft and/or paying below minimum wage), and the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS both for untaxed income–“Fergus Nogoodnick, accountant working at Nitpick Industries, 123 Main Street” should be enough to find them–and for issuing deliberately inaccurate W-2 forms to everyone who was charged a fine.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      What’s screaming “tax evasion” here is the fact they just come around and collect these payments in cash.

      If it was just a way to cut wages, they’d try to deduct it from payroll. But alas, payroll deductions leave a paper trail.

  36. QuestJen*

    Some people can’t wait for Halloween every year, with the crisp fall air and changing leaves. Some prefer Thanksgiving and family traditions. Others love Christmas, where you put up the tree and watch timeless movies.

    Me? I live for AAM updates season. ‘Tis the most joyous of all.

    Thank you, Allison!

  37. yala*

    Somehow I missed this one when it first came around, and I am BAFFLED.

    How, on God’s green earth, do you justify fining employees $2/minute for being late unless you are paying them $120/hour. Like…that’s the only way that could even sort of make sense.

  38. Leela*

    OP I’m glad they stopped collecting but good lord, having to send a photo in!
    I’ve found that it makes an enormous different to me to be allowed to get in at “basically 9”, so if my train is held up for a minute I’m not panicking or having to choose between being ten minutes early with no buffer or over an hour early downtown when everything is closed on the off chance that something might happen. I’ve definitely had jobs like that though, where you’d better PRAY you don’t need to use the restroom on the way in (or even after you get in, but they don’t see you at your desk so you’re “late” even though you came in, sat down, answered an e-mail and then used the restroom), or had to freak out at someone holding up the elevator to talk to someone because you were going to get in major crap for it. Especially with a lot of cities having huge housing issues and people having to move quite far from where they work, a lot of people are having to take very long commutes in where there aren’t lots of options clustered together and they have to lose loads of time to be early with potential buffer, it’s not a good look for employers to be so Draconian about this!

  39. Retail not Retail*

    Do people not work hourly jobs? Even the salaried people I know (teachers) have to be on time.

    This doesn’t seem that egregious from the perspective of an hourly employee.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve been hourly my entire life, including when I had that ugly stint with a salary. But I’ve never had it down to the minute like this.

      And my history is with production lines, so they are all shift work. Still it’s 5 minutes early/5 minutes late is no big deal. Nobody is stuck in an elevator scared they’re going to get in trouble.

    2. oh yeah by the way*

      The issue isn’t being on time. The issue is the system of nightmares they’ve built around it.

    3. yala*

      If the issue is about it being hourly, then even if you were going to dock someone’s pay for being late, you’d only “charge” what you pay them. $2/minute is $120/hour.

      I don’t know a lot of hourly employees making that kind of scratch.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        And as hourly employees, you only get paid for the time you’re working. If you’re not clocked in…you’re not being paid…so it’s bizarre to penalize someone for simply not being there working for whatever peanuts they’re paying people!

  40. agnes*

    Let me start by saying I am not advocating what this employer did. It’s insulting and demeaning. That said, it’s also disrespectful to your employer to constantly be late to work if the work culture is that of a hard start time. Part of exhibiting a professional, adult attitude towards your work is to respect the workplace culture.

    In my world, being “on time” does not mean walking through the door at the start time (or late) and then spending 20 minutes getting coffee, taking off snow boots, and otherwise getting ready to start work. It means getting there early enough so you are ready to work when work starts.

    1. Observer*

      If you read the letters and most of the comments, you would know that nothing you are saying is relevant. The OP was late a TOTAL of three time in the year – and 2 of those times were 1-2 minutes. Nothing about being “constantly late” nor coming in late then spending lots of time getting coffee, etc. Of course people who are treated this way are actually FAR more likely to spend their first 15-20 minutes getting coffee. ESPECIALLY when the boss dings them for literally being one minute late, but does NOT give them credit, never mind pay, for staying late.

      That’s not just disrespectful and demeaning. It’s stupid, and in many cases creates legal liability.

    2. Jan*

      She wasn’t constantly late. According to the original letter, it was three times in one year. I’d hardly call that excessive.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m from the “if you’re not early, you’re late” upbringing. So I’m chronically excessively early, unless there’s a major incident that closes down interstates every so often.

      But that’s where being able to be mindful of the PERSON involved and not just a blanket rule of “you’re late, gimme $2 for every minute you were late.” kind of nonsense.

      Guess what happens if you’re chronically late in most reasonable job places? Termination happens. You get warned a couple of times and then you’re let go because it’s not working. I’ve fired a lot of people who cannot make it to work on time. A few minutes or traffic incidents a couple times a year, whatever, nobody gets fired or even spoken to for it because we’re humans.

      And if the issue was that people were clocking in and milking the clock, taking their time settling in while phones were screaming. That’s another issue, it’s again not to be addressed by charging employees for their time management deficiencies.

  41. kayakwriter*

    IF I ever paid such a cash fine, I’d be looking to see it deducted off my next pay stub statement. If it hadn’t been, I be emailing accounting/payroll (BCCing my personal email and CCing any of my fellow employees subject to this nonsense). “Hey guys: I notice for the last period, you claimed I was paid $X, and withheld income taxes and other deductions accordingly. As you will remember – since you personally collected the fine – I actually earned $X-$90 for that period. Please correct the statement, and refund the deductions accordingly…”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      The fact it was cash means there’s no actual records involved and I’m still wondering where that slush fund was going to. Seriously.

      I wouldn’t give a dime in cash, my response would be “Oh, so you’ll run it as a payroll deduction, I’ll bring it up with the labor department once I get my stub.” This was some straight up extortion happening.

  42. anon for this*

    At my city job, 1 minute late is late, 4 of those in a calendar year and you have to go to HR to explain yourself.
    Today I was 2 minutes late. I emailed my supervisor as per policy to alert her.
    The reply, you never do that so it is ok, as though 2 minutes was a big deal. At least I don’t get a fine.
    Work can be silly.

  43. Chris*

    The fact that they did that in the first place just baffles me. It’s a good thing they stopped but if I were you, I would start looking for another job immediately. Seems like that workplace reeks of toxicity.

    I have worked for some bad employers in my day but this is just ridiculous. Never have I worked for an employer that fined an employee for any reason. If you’re late, you’re late. Sometimes it’s beyond your control.

  44. musical chairs*

    WHAT. I was really hoping this update would include you leaving this job or your manager(s) being reprimanded.

    Seriously, where is this money going?!! If they don’t have the authority to take it out of your paycheck directly (cause it likely ends up violating labor laws if you are in the US and you walk out with less than minimum wage) then I really doubt everyone’s fines are going back to the company’s toner budget or air something.

    You and your peers deserve better than this!

  45. cheeky*

    This company is crazy. I’d be looking for some time on the job for experience, then I’d get out.

  46. ssnc*

    My husband and I live and work in China and this isn’t too different than policies we’ve seen at various jobs here.

    At one place, you could be late 10 times a month. Late = clocking in at 8:01, even if you were physically at work then. If you were late more than 10 times a month, you got the equivalent of $15 USD taken out of your paycheck each subsequent time you were late. They didn’t tell you this until you saw your paycheck with the deductions. This was an automatic process that nobody cared to correct. Of course, you didn’t get credit for the time you spent after the workday ended before clocking out.

    At another place, we had to clock in and out at the beginning of the day and for lunch. Your paystub reflected how much time you clocked in after 9am and after 1pm, when lunch break officially ended. However, if you didn’t go on lunch break until 12:50 and took a 30-minute lunch, rather than the standard 1-hour lunch, the time clock wasn’t sophisticated enough to recognize that you worked an extra 30 minutes. Fortunately I was salaried and worked evenings and weekends to get things done, so I didn’t have to worry about deductions from my check, but that office (probably illegally) would deduct money from your final pay stub that was calculated as (all the overtime) – (all the time late), but wouldn’t give you extra money if you ended with a positive number.

    We never had to pay cash to any of these people, though. It was all electronically done with payroll.

    Also, as Americans, we had a lot more standing to argue with the company about unfair procedures. Local Chinese people have significanlty less standing and can be replaced much easier in most situations, which is why these policies happen. It’s also culture to do everything your boss says and never try to negotiate (I can work Saturday or Sunday but not both) so there are often cultural clashes we are up against.

  47. Mark Roth*

    It is a good thing it is over…

    …But I really want to know what would have happened when someone simply refused to hand over cash. Or insisted on taking a (half) day because it was cheaper than paying.

  48. CaptainCaveMan*

    What exactly do you do that would balance out a culture that would feed this kind of policy?? I’m just gonna throw out what possible jobs make up for this madness…
    I’m thinking your job at your company is to….

    – Play with puppies all day long and then on breaks, you get a massage while watching your choice of Keanu Reeves movies.
    – Work at a reindeer farm that raises flying reindeer and your job is to exercise the reindeer selected for this years Santa run by going on on tandem mini sleighs for 1 hour flying runs.
    – Your company makes fluffy pillow top mattresses and extraordinarily soft sheets, pillows…and you are in charge of product testing and are the project manger for the company’s annual snooze-a-thon and pillow fight extravagance, a charitable event to benefit Narcoleptics-R-Us.
    – Your company makes virtual and augmented reality content for use on VR experiential machines and goggles. Your job is to travel the world to capture astonishing destinations (typically via hot air balloon or ultralight).
    – You are a professional shopper for elite multi-millionaires and spend your day browsing the collections of Louis Vuitton, Loro Piana, Chanel, Bvlgari, and Rollys Royce while also considering bolstering the string of your client’s polo team this year with the acquisition of one (or two) of Adolfino’s clones of Akien Cura.
    – You have mastered dolphin and orca language and are conduction breakthrough research on their lives and behavior; travelling 6 months out of the year to their various homes, from the Antarctic to PNW, the other six months working with them via holographic image projection.

    Am I close?

  49. lilsheba*

    Well don’t be late….you have a schedule for a reason so allow for extra time when you leave so you aren’t late!

    1. Persephone Underground*

      Really? Did you read the post at all? They stated they were so worried about being late that when they were trapped in the elevator when on time they had to send a picture to prove it! This just isn’t reasonable. Life happens even to people who are always on time and plan ahead. Sheesh.

  50. Persephone Underground*

    Re-reading the original post, I’m still curious if the OP is misclassified as exempt, or if this docking of pay (fining them for lateness is definitely docking pay based on work hours as far as I can see but IANAL, this distinction is probably the tricky part of the law here) should have caused you to be re-classified as non-exempt. They may still owe you and your coworkers back pay for overtime if you were being treated as non-exempt by docking pay until the policy change, or if you are actually misclassified. Probably worth looking into first on the federal government website, then with a lawyer (see if you can get a free consultation, sometimes an exploratory meeting before becoming a client can be free) or someone’s lawyer friend or family member if you can’t swing a paid one. Back wages can add up to a lot of money! Just because the immediate issue of $90 fines has been resolved doesn’t mean there’s nothing wrong going on. I know it’s a pain, but the payoff could be big, it’s worth checking into at least to verify you’re currently classified correctly.

  51. Jenny*

    The job I had before my current one went to a timeclock method that rounded to tenths of an hour. So, basically, if you clocked in at 8:01, it registered 8:06. (8:00 + 1/10 hour) Same thing when you clocked back in after lunch. BUT – when you clocked out for lunch or out at the end of the day, it rounded “backwards”. If you clocked out at 4:59, it registered as 4:54. (5:00 – 1/10 hour)!!
    I did the math once and, if I’m not mistaken, worst case scenario, you could miss getting paid for 100 minutes in a week! You had to be pretty careful, though, because 1 minute past 40 hrs in a week would get you called into the office for having overtime. This place was RABID about overtime!
    Also, naturally, if you took a sick day or vacation day, the hours keyed for that day were based on the average of the previous year. So, since there was NO overtime allowed, you were basically guaranteed to not average to 8 hrs per day. So, your sick/vacation days were keyed as 7.97 hours (or whatever). Since THOSE days were included in NEXT year’s average it was impossible to make it back up to an 8 hr day for keying purposes the following year.
    (Not sure if this explanation is clear at all; I hope so.)

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