New York Employers Can Eliminate Buddy Punching With Biometric Time Clocks



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Employment Law and Compliance

Wage Theft Motivates the Use of Biometric Clocks

Wage and time theft account for an average of 4.5 hours of stolen time per employee per week. One of the ways that employers seek to eliminate time theft through buddy punching is through the use of biometric time clocks.

Buddy punching is a practice of when a co-worker clocks in for another employee. 19% of employees have admitted to buddy punching and it affects 75% of all employers, according to the American Payroll Association.

Biometric time clocks provide a guarantee that the employee has physically shown up to the workplace. It eliminates the possibility for buddy punching.

However, employers in New York, Illinois, Texas, and Washington must be aware of the various biometric laws.  New York does not have specific biometric laws. However, the state’s labor law does have restrictions in regards to fingerprinting employees.

New York Employers Cannot Require Fingerprints as a Condition of Employment

New York Labor Law 201-A does not allow employers to require that employees provide a fingerprint unless it is allowed by law.

The law specifically states that “Except as otherwise provided by law, no person, as a condition of securing employment or of continuing employment, shall be required to be fingerprinted.”

When other employers want to use biometric time clocks, there are several important factors that employers should be aware of first. These factors will ensure that businesses stay compliant with New York Labor Law.

Requiring Use of Biometric Clocks by Employees

Employers in New York cannot require a fingerprint as a condition of employment unless it is allowed by law. That means that employers who wish to utilize a fingerprint biometric clock can only implement those devices through a voluntary system.

However, it is likely that the very employees who participate in buddy punching are the ones that would not voluntarily use biometric time clocks.

Employers do have a solution that allows them to require the use of biometric clocks and also falls within the requirements of New York Labor Code.

These employers can implement hand geometry, and iris or retina scanning. The New York Labor Department states that “instruments that measure the geometry of the hand are permissible.”

However, it’s important for employers to understand that biometric clocks cannot “scan the surface of the hand and fingers in a manner similar or comparable to the scanning of a fingerprint.”

In other words, employers can require the use of biometric clocks that measure or record the hand geometry of employees to identify individuals.

Using Fingerprint or other Biometric Clocks

Any biometric clock that scans the surface features of an individual’s fingers, aka. a fingerprint falls under the Labor Code.

According to a letter from the New York Labor Department, “it matters not that the device does not store the employee’s fingerprint since it is the fingerprinting, rather than the storing of the fingerprint, that is prohibited.”

Employers who use fingerprint biometric clocks can use these devices, but cannot require the use of them by employees.

New York Labor Law “does not prohibit the voluntary fingerprinting of employees.” Employers cannot take adverse action against employees who choose not to participate in the program or “otherwise coerce employees to “volunteer” to participate in a fingerprinting program”

Implementing a Geometry Scan Time Clock

Employers who wish to eliminate time card fraud and buddy punching can do so with hand geometry time clocks. SwipeClock offers geometric hand scan time clocks such as the GT-400 Handkey for New York employers, as well as employers in other states.

There are several things that these employers should do to ensure a smooth transition from employees.

First, employers should communicate with employees prior to implementing a biometric time clock. This helps employees to express their questions and misunderstandings about the technology and to be informed by understanding exactly how the technology will be used.

Second, employers should distribute a clear employer policy. It should inform employees about how biometric information will be used, that it won’t be shared with others, and the privacy and the retention or destruction of the biometric data.

Employers who are using SwipeClock’s biometric clocks can educate employees that biometric data is deleted as soon as the employee’s employment is terminated in the system. These employers can also share with employees that their biometric data is not shared or distributed to any other companies and is kept secure.

Let SwipeClock Help

Employers in New York have to comply with many complex labor laws. Many of these employers have to comply with New York City’s Secure Scheduling Ordinances. All of these employers must comply with some or all of New York’s 14 minimum wage laws.

Other laws, such as the NY FMLA law may overlap federal laws such as FMLA and other laws.  

Employee labor and benefits are the largest business expense and many employers seek to reduce unnecessary cost by eliminating time card fraud through biometric clocks.

These employers also reduce this expense through SwipeClock’s workforce management tools, which provides intelligent employee management and helps to optimize employee scheduling by reducing overscheduling.

Finally, SwipeClock helps employers to stay compliant with the multitude of labor laws and to avoid the costly and crippling fines that New York and the Department of Labor imposes upon non-compliant employers.


New York Labor Opinion Letter Regarding Fingerprinting

Written by Annemaria Duran. Last updated on January 8, 2017.

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