I started my job approx. 3 months ago. I went through a temp agency who I get paid through. The company I work at is responsible for confirming my hours. I was told by my supervisor there that I can only get paid for 8 hours a day (40 per week)...which is fine and any overtime is not approved (again, I do not mind). I am an hourly worker (not salaried) in the US.

For some time, I have reporting my hours as just 40 per week (8 per day) even though I have worked more than that. This did not strike me as unethical as this really quite normal from my experiences. The problem I have is that I worked only a half of a day this week, for good Friday, and my boss wants me to report it as 8 hours. I have problem reporting is a such, but it seems as if my boss is "testing" me as of late and I am unsure if this is an ethics test (i.e. "will he lie if I tell him to or will he not and disobey me"). Mind you, he has to approve the time overall, so he will know what I reported. How should I figure out how to respond to this situation? Is it customary to report hours not worked in a week (if directed to do so)? Is it customary to manipulate hours week to week if the total is the same in the end?

  • Did you bring this problem up with your boss, something like "Boss, I only worked 4 hours on that day."?
    – Brandin
    Mar 25, 2016 at 22:37
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    I've done it many times, sort of a bonus, especially with low pay workers. I don't want them struggling for money, and if they've earnt it. Some places are just a bit more relaxed. There's much better ways to test a persons ethics than commanding them to do something shady, that doesn't test anything. If the boss wants you to do it, then it's not you being shady, it's the boss if you want to look at it that way.
    – Kilisi
    Mar 25, 2016 at 23:02
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    Exempt employees (in the US) aren't paid for extra hours worked, but they might still be required to fill out timesheets so that clients get billed correctly. Mar 27, 2016 at 17:33
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    @B1313 your question currently has a few close votes, probably because you asked what to do (we can't really tell you that). I modified the end of your question to ask how you can work out what to do (a subtle but important difference) and added a bit asking what is customary. Please feel free to edit further if I've misunderstood something. Thanks. Mar 27, 2016 at 17:39
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    Does your company do business with the US Gorvernment? If so, what you have been asked to do is not only unethical, it's illegal. Report hours worked, report ALL hours worked, don't report hours not worked.
    – CGCampbell
    Mar 27, 2016 at 19:15

5 Answers 5


Have you asked him why he wants you to report your time in such a way. May be he is feeling guilty about the unpaid overtime you are putting. If that is a pattern and can be proven (late emails sent etc.), he might be trying to get on your good side, so that you won't abruptly leave.

But short of getting a clarification from your boss, I wouldn't report anything over 4 hours especially if all company is taking off at noon. If the boss asks you why, you can tell to his face that you don't feel right to report your time fraudulently and if he feels that you deserve that extra pay, he should approve your overtime work instead. Otherwise you are opening yourself to a termination with cause case. Happened to a non-exempt employee (not a contractor) co-worker of mine. His boss was okay and bosses boss was not. He was history in 2 hours.

  • Just thought to clarify why this was the best answer/choice. I decided to do what I think is best for me. Your post brings up some good points most notably, my manager's boss might not be ok with it or something along those lines. Also, reporting hours over the actual time (baring the legal ramifications) is EASILY provable and can be grounds for dismissal. Yeah, if he wants to change them, then he can but I will report them the way they should be.
    – G.T.D.
    Mar 26, 2016 at 18:33

Very unlikely your boss is testing you.

If you give it much more attention you will risk looking like an unconfident, neurotic mess.

The ethical question is whether or not you would approve of writing the hours if you were a boss who asked your employee to write the hours. Which is sort of silly. Why would you disapprove of what you asked someone to do? Although people tend to be conflicted, you should proceed trusting your boss is a straight shooter, and you should proceed looking at yourself that way (unless you need to confront yourself about it).

This is a separate question from following the rules. Asking someone to break the rules to learn about this puts them in a spot where they have to decide between two different kinds of insubordination ... so not a lot to learn.


For some time, I have reporting my hours as just 40 per week (8 per day) even though I have worked more than that. This did not strike me as unethical as this really quite normal from my experiences.

That is where you went wrong. Not reporting your actual hours is unethical. Even a salaried employee needs to report accurately what they worked. Depending on where you work hourly people may need to be paid overtime if they work more than 8 in a day, or more than 40 in a week. Being there more than 40 per week but not reporting it accurately; doesn't let management know that the workload is not matching the labor.

If in the past you had established that you can flex your time so you could work and report numbers other than 8 per day, a long a you get to 40 for the week; you would not be in this situation. In some places where you have to be at your station for customer service, flexing isn't allowed. In other situations anything of 40 results in overtime so flexing is not allowed by the employer.

You may have painted your self into a corner. You were only there for 4 hours on Friday, meaning that in a week you worked more than 40 you will only get paid for 36.

Starting next week you need to establish what the rules are going forward. You also need to determine if any flexing of hours is possible for the handful of weeks where flexing would be beneficial. A conversation a few week in advance may have avoided this exact situation.


It sounds like you are working more than 40 hours per week. It sounds like you are billing 40 hours per week. Many jobs and people are not equally productive over the week. But it sounds like putting 8 hours per day on the time sheet will keep everybody happy.

If the customer is happily paying for 40 hours per week, and you are working 40 or more hours per week happily, it should not matter that you didn't hit exactly 8 hours every day.

Also, it may be a burden to your boss to explain to his bosses why you only worked 36 hours one week according to the time sheet. Putting the 8 there instead of the 4 keeps everybody happy, and you are still honestly averaging 40 hours or more per week. Enjoy!


It's fairly customary to offer "comp time" for overtime hours worked, if you're working on a contract with hourly pay. The contract won't allow overtime because hourly workers are required by law to be paid time and a half for overtime. If your actual hours worked exceed the hours you are paid for, then you don't have an ethical problem in my opinion. Rather, you are just simplifying paperwork.

It seems very unlikely that your boss would "test" you in this manner. For one, he would have to lie about telling you to report it as eight hours, and it doesn't seem like he's the type from what you've written. However, if he is, and someone accuses you of over-reporting your hours, you can simply point out that you have actually under-reported them when taken as a whole. If they really try to push it, then you potentially have recourse with the Wage and Hour people (you can probably make a case that you were required to work overtime without compensation), and trust me, anyone trying to mess with you in this way doesn't want that kind of attention.

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