My manager is editing timesheets after we submit them. He's modifying something that often takes off 30 minutes to 1 hour. Is there any good way to approach this without seeming greedy and/or a troublemaker?
Changing timesheets is a BIG red flag. It is called fraud and is illegal in most places. Worse, if you don't keep copies of what you submitted, you can get caught up in this yourself if the fraud is discovered and you could go to jail.
I used to work for an audit agency and that several of the people we sent to jail had committed timesheet fraud.
Legitimate companies send a timesheet back to the employee if the manager thinks it is an error. This is an accounting internal control to prevent fraud which often includes not giving the supervisor the access to change electronic timesheets unless approved by another senior manager (for emergency cases). If your company does not do this, then you need to get another job as quickly as possible to not get caught up in a legal mess. A company that will commit timesheet fraud will do other unethical and illegal things. This is not a place that you want to continue working in.
The only time it is legitimate for a supervisor to change a timesheet of an employee is when the employee is unable to do so due to something like sickness or injury. Any other time he is committing fraud. Either he is denying you pay that you are entitled to or he is getting more pay for someone (usually with a kickback) or he is overcharging the customer or he is undercharging to avoid the appearance of overrunning the budget or he is charging one project what was a cost to another project because the second project budget was out of money (this is fraud to whoever was paying for the first project). All of these are serious legal issues and much more serious if you have a government contract because they will often audit timesheets.
The first thing you need to do is protect yourself. Save a copy of every timesheet as it is submitted and before he changes anything. Keep those copies off-site.
If he is changing timesheets to reduce the amount you are paid, then you may need to contact a labor lawyer. Personally, I would keep the records and then do this after I have another job.
You can certainly ask him casually if there is a problem with your timesheets because you noticed they were being changed. However, I would not be confrontational unless you are ready to be let go. If you feel you are being shorted on pay, it is your right to ask why. But you might consult with a lawyer first just to make sure that how you do it bolsters your case and doesn't make it worse.
To address the question in the comments:
There is legal fraud and just plain fraud. If the intent is to deceive and make things look good when they are not, then it is fraud even if it is not legally prosecutable. And even if it was only internal it could still be legal fraud if someone benefits (such as by getting a bonus they would not get if the time was properly accounted for, one of the most common reasons for this type of thing) at company expense.
It is bad for the company no matter what. It messes up the ability to properly estimate future tasks based on past history and it makes some people suffer because they go over the hours on their project but can't say that the reason why is that the 500 hours that were improperly charged to the project were really on some other project. (Hint - if you can't say why those hours are there in a meeting, then what you are doing is wrong.)
For instance, take project A which has run out of funds and so the last 500 hours on project A to finish it up are moved to project B which is just getting started. Later project B runs out of hours and there is a big meeting to determine why. Can you say in that meeting that 500 of the hours shouldn't count against project B because they really were for Project A? If you can't, the behavior is fraudulent.
Would the project manager even know that the hours were there if the orginal PM who moved the hours left before the time project B is finished? Is it fair for the new PM to get punished for something that was not his fault but was fraudulent behavior on the part of the first PM who took his big completion bonus on project A and then left? Did senior management even know the hours were moved? Are they under the impression that Project A was within budget? Was the request to change the hours in writing? If it wasn't, then the intent is almost certainly not only fraudulent but trying to make sure that someone else is blamed if the fraud is discovered. Of course, if the request is in writing and someone benefits finaincially who shouldn't as a result, then the fraud is much easier to prove in court.
There are genuine reasons why smart companies do not allow supervisors to change timesheets even when things are just internal.
You can bring it up by mentioning that you've noticed that he's making changes to your timesheets. Ask him what his reasoning is for making these changes - perhaps he thinks they are corrections for inaccurate entries.
If he's changing your entries because he thinks they are incorrect (and they aren't incorrect), tell him that you believe the entries are accurate, and ask him why he thinks they are inaccurate, and more importantly, how you two can each more clearly track your time so that you both have the same understanding of hours worked.
If he's changing them because he thinks they are incorrect, and is able to explain to you why your entries are incorrect, then you need to discuss ways for you to more accurately keep track of your hours worked.
If the hours you've entered are correct, but he is changing them for some other reason (such as a limit on how much time you should spend on a particular task), then you've got a bit of a problem. Your previous timesheets don't accurately reflect the hours you really worked (do these changes affect your pay? If so, you'll need to discuss this because you've done work and not been paid for it). Ask him for clearer guidance going forward on his expectations for your timesheet so that you can accurately and honestly record your time worked without him making changes to it.
I have experienced something like this, but it has only been within a contract scenario. There are two ways this may be done.
One- the original time sheet is unmodified, but the company submits a company generated time sheet according to the contract and files your original time sheet with the company time sheet with the billing and any notations as to why there is a change.
Two- the change is make on the time sheet where the original entry can still be read. Also notations are made on the original time sheet.
Is this legal? Yes. Sometimes. Depending.
Some contracts have billing requirements that may mean rounding down time to the nearest quarter or something similar- or that time billed will not exceed a certain amount for a particular period. Where this becomes legal is, when in a contract scenario, a contract employee is notified of the billing schedule and time policies for the particular contract and that the contract employee agrees to work within and accept these policies as a condition of employment.
In the cases where I have seen this, I have not seen more than 15 minutes per day lost or not more than an hour per week. In these cases, the contract company should be keeping a close eye on hours worked on a daily or near daily basis. I know of one company who attempted to contact each contract employee each day to get an estimated number of hours per day and inform the employee of any billing time issues as a result.
In another scenario, the time sheets are not necessarily modified except for rounding, but the time you can work would be less for the next period if you exceed the allowed number of billing hours for the current period. This can be a period of one week, two weeks, or one month.
Under this scenario, it is legal to change a time sheet. As long as valid justifications are made according to the contract to the customer and the employee and the original accounting is preserved to check the validity of the change.
Please note: This was in the U.S. There may be similar scenarios in other countries and the laws may vary.
If this is part of a US Government contract, that would be illegal modification of government records. This would probably tend to be true for government contracts in other parts of the world. Under the presumption it's B2B, one suspects your project is in trouble and your manager is trying to keep the project afloat as long as possible. If it's an IT contract, it's probably underbid so badly it will blow it's budget regardless.
I've added links that deal with government contracting and laws in Texas (where I'm from). I suspect these rules are common not only in the US but other countries. This should be researched for the jurisdiction you're in. In both of the above examples, the only people that can alter timesheets are the employees, and those records are to be signed and dated by both the employee and the manager, and retained for several years.
Depending on what country you're in, if this is altering your pay, you could complain to the agency that handles worker/employer issues. Your manager might be following instructions from someone farther up in the hierarchy, in such circumstances your manager isn't in control of the situation.
Can you edit the post to expand on these possibilities?