When Employees Falsify Documents – How To Respond

Apr 23, 2018

when employees falsify documentsIf you discover that an employee has submitted a fraudulent document or purposely provided false information, there are different ways to respond, based on the type of document and the surrounding circumstances. Here are two common scenarios and how to effectively respond when employees falsify documents.

A document submitted for an I-9 form seems to be a fake

If you discover a document that clearly looks fraudulent, or like it does not identify the correct individual, you should talk with the employee about it and ask them to provide alternate documentation from the list of acceptable documents.

On the other hand, if you only find a copy of a document that is hard to read, unclear, or confusing to you, no action may be required. The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) guidance related to internal I-9 audits specifically states that an employer “should recognize that it may not be able to definitively determine the genuineness of Form I-9 documentation based on photocopies of the documentation. An employer should not request documentation from an employee solely because photocopies of documents are unclear.”

There aren’t always easy answers for how to handle situations that arise during internal I-9 audits. An employer must balance the risk of being found to have knowingly continued to employ someone without valid work authorization against the potential that their actions will lead to a claim of discriminatory treatment based on immigration status.

You discover an employee has been falsifying their timecard

If you discover an employee has been falsifying their timecard, you should refer to your policies and past practice. Hopefully, you have a policy that makes it clear that timesheets must be accurate and that failure to report time correctly could lead to discipline—up to and including termination. But remember that consistency is key, and similar situations should be handled in the same manner to avoid claims of discrimination. You don’t want to “make an example” of one employee if other employees have been treated more leniently for issues like this in the past.

You should also hear the employee’s side of the story prior to making a final termination decision. Even in situations where you have significant evidence of misconduct, you may learn something during your conversation with the employee that changes your perspective. For instance, they may be writing in extra hours Monday through Friday to account for time spent working on the weekend. If this were the case, they might still be in violation of company policies, but you’d probably want to determine why this was happening and if there are underlying issues that are leading to off-the-clock work. Terminating someone for attempting to get paid for all hours worked would be a dangerous move.

If you don’t learn anything from the conversation with the employee that changes your assessment that they’ve been wrongly reporting their time worked, then you can move to discipline or termination, whichever is your standard practice for this type of misconduct.

(Note: the easiest way to avoid issues with employee timecards is to use an automated timekeeping system.)

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