I recently terminated an employee who I caught clocking in early, leaving for a while and then coming back to start his shift when scheduled. I suspect he was not the only one doing it. How can I send a message that I have zero tolerance for this practice without letting people know the details of this individual employee’s firing?
—General Manager, Casual Dining
Time theft is theft. Assuming your training, documentation and policies are clear, I think you did the right thing. You are also doing the right thing by keeping personnel matters confidential rather than holding this employee up as an example to the rest of your staff.
Restaurants, despite our best efforts, are gossipy places. I suspect the employee’s absence will be sufficient to send the message to anyone being overly liberal with their timesheets that you have discovered the malfeasance and taken decisive action. My advice is to be proactive by hosting a brief pre-shift training for all employees on the proper ways to clock in and out. Make sure your employee handbook is also updated with the latest guidance. That way, no one can say they weren’t aware of the restaurant’s procedures for recording time.
Employees may draw their own conclusions between the training and the departure of their colleague. That’s fine, because your focus is not on the terminated employee but rather on tightening up your operations and making your standard operating procedures clear, something you should do regularly.
As always, this column is not legal advice. Check in with your attorney and restaurant association for guidance unique to your situation.
More on employee theft here.