Menu Close

Two of your employees are cheating. What do you do?

Doctor, you find out two of your employees are ‘stealing time’. What do you do?

I received an interesting call the other day from a dental office I’ve worked with in the past. Here is what the office manager had to say:

“Jan, I need to pick your brain for advice. My two front office girls have been clocking each other in and out (when one isn’t there) to gain hours. Do I give them a verbal warning to cut it out, or tell my boss what’s going on? It’s theft, it’s illegal and it’s certainly grounds for termination, but I also can’t lose two front office workers!! They are really great and efficient. Ugh!”

Rather than me telling you what I would do, I am asking you to tell me what you would do.

Maybe this is something you want to discuss in your next staff meeting? Maybe you know exactly what you would do right now and would be willing to share it with me and my readers. You can reply in confidence of course.

I will email again in the next few weeks with your feedback, and also tell you what I told her. It’s an interesting dilemma and I’m sure you’ve faced something similar in your own practice.

Thanks for participating if you can, otherwise stay tuned for my next email!

Update and my advice: 

The OM contacted me again with this additional information:

The practice has 4 doctors/3 hygienists.

The owner doctor is only in the office one day a week and appears to be difficult to communicate with.

Two of the associates, one of whom is planning on purchasing the practice,  don’t want the OM to address it or tell the practice owner. Question: Why not?

They don’t want him to know and “fire everyone”. Question: Is this a habit of his?

My advice to the OM:

I told the OM my advice was to approach the doctor/owner and tell him she has observed the actions first-hand. “Tara” was clocked in but was not in the practice working.

Suggest to the doctor that the practice implement fingerprint time clock to prevent future issues.

Also, ask him how he wants to handle the situation, putting the ball in his court.

There is a consultant involved in the practice. I suggested the practice engage the consultant’s help with addressing this situation with the owner.

Further, from what I understand, the HR manual sounds like it is almost non-existent. The OM might want to address this with both the consultant and owner to get them into HR Compliance. (Also look into whether or not the practice is HIPAA and OSHA compliant.)

Please continue reading to find out what other dental professionals recommend.


  1. Laura Russell

    Jan this is a form of embezzlement called “ theft of time”. I would make sure this is addressed in the manual – that no one is to clock in our out for anyone else and this is grounds for termination. I would give them one warning with a counseling memo that they sign and that goes in their file. I also would make sure that I have a signed acknowledgment form for having read the manual and I would again point out this clause.

    Other means for “theft of time” are lingering around after work, delaying work that should have been done during the day, arriving early not prepared for work such as eating breakfast or getting your scrubs on while having clocked in. These again should be addressed in the manual. This team may need a meeting to review these issues.

    Laura Russell

  2. Greg Beck, Program Manager, Dental Practice Services, Inc

    I wanted to give some feedback on the cheating employees. This is an integrity issue. They may be stealing more than just time and it is imperative to create a backup plan, quickly. I was in a similar situation and it is critical to create an alternate option of hiring people. When staff members believe that they are the only option, they will push the limits. I would not tell the boss until the situation is handled, don’t go into it as “what do I do?”. You do need to address it with them both at the same time and give them perspective. They may not understand consequences of their actions.

    Lastly, I would not let them work together anymore by reassignment. If their attitude is not good, you have to do the more drastic approach by terminating one position. I would eliminate the one who is the instigator, not the follower and you can usually figure that out.

    Greg Beck, Program Manager, Dental Practice Services, Inc.

  3. Rebecca Boartfield, SPHR, SHRM-SCP Bent Ericksen & Associates

    It sounds like this is an Office Manager asking the question. If that’s the case, the boss should definitely be notified that this is occurring. This is absolutely a terminable offense, and Doctor should decide how to move forward. Of course, this can be a simple write up, but that punishment doesn’t seem to fit the crime if there is, indeed, proof that this time clock theft is occurring.

    Rebecca Boartfield, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Bent Ericksen & Associates

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *