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Accused of Time Card Fraud

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Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Beth,

It’s me, ‘Sick to my Stomach’, I’m back looking for advice regarding the same manager who I felt was sabotaging me last year in February (I believe). I am now unemployed and I believe the manager played a part in my decision to resign.

I’m also looking for advice on how or what I can do to help change the culture of bullying. I want to create a voice so loud that maybe somebody will listen, but I don’t know how.

As you know, most of us are overwhelmed, overworked, morally distressed and are continuing to be where we are needed during this pandemic... except for in my case, until I was put in a position where I don’t trust the actions of the management team. I’ve been treated so poorly, I’ve talked to nurses who have been treated poorly and I feel like I need to do something to be the change in the culture of bullying and sabotage of nurses careers by fellow nurses.

Colleagues confide in me, but only when I speak out about my own experiences. My most recent experience, the last straw that caused me to make the decision to resign, was just about two weeks ago when I arrived late to the Covid unit after working OT the night before. Regardless of working OT, late is late, and I am accountable for being late. I’m also accountable for making the decision to go straight to my assignments and not clock in. However, at the end of the shift we are also responsible to document our time of arrival in the missed punches book, a.k.a. the green book.

As I entered the managers office and requested this green book I did so well announcing that I needed to do so because I was late and my manager proceeded to hand me the green book. As I’m writing my name I’m stating a loud that I’m not quite sure what time I got to work and then I was unsure exactly what to write and that I would be guessing. I get no response or direction from my manager so I say it again and this time her back is towards me, no response or guidance.

At that point I’m tired I’m irritable I want to go home and I take accountability, this is my fault for being in this position at this time, however, in my opinion it’s obvious I’m requesting guidance. I then request that the time I swiped into the building be checked and used as my time of arrival because they do this anyway and have fired nurses for purposely falsifying their time entry. I am being open that I arrived late, open that I don’t know an exact time I arrived, requesting to be checked and corrected for discrepancies of the time I’m guessing and entering in the green book (we are required to correct entries the day of the missed punch) and use the badge swipe from the building as an accurate time of arrival.

And still no participation from management for guidance. I close The green book and head home. The next afternoon I get a phone call from HR suspending me for time card fraud. I’m just beside myself that instead of calling me to come in and correct the time I knew I was writing as a guess, they called HR on me. I waited 24 hours after our meeting with my director and HR for them to call me with a decision of their findings and in that 24 hour time frame I decided even if they didn’t fire me I couldn’t work for them anymore because I don’t trust them now and I couldn’t give them a second opportunity to do something irreversible to my license.

I sent my resignation letter and I’m just so overwhelmed with sadness because I honestly didn’t intend to commit fraud. I feel betrayed. I’ve never been accused of anything like this before and I don’t see how they feel I’m capable of doing this when I requested to be corrected. To be clear in the green book my entry stated 0707 but my building swipe into the hospital was 0709. Also to be clear 0707 is the cut off for rounding to the next pay bracket of 15 minutes so in their mind I was trying to steal 15 minutes of time from the company. What should I do if anything to create awareness if there’s even any awareness to be created from this experience. I just feel with everything I’ve gone through with the same manager, someone’s got to hear us who are targeted and address it

Dear Tired,

You are tired, you are irritable and you don't feel respected. This recent incident, as you say, broke the camel's back.  You quit in a state of high emotion.

Your estimation was off by only 2 minutes but represented 15 minutes of overtime to your employer and a reason/excuse for discipline, if they were looking for one. Perhaps it wasn't wise to choose 0707 as your clock-in time, knowing that it would be questioned and used against you.

In any event,  what is in our control, even in toxic workplaces, is to communicate assertively. Your manager ignored you when you tried to talk to her, which is unprofessional. You could be more direct "I need some help completing this, please. I'm not sure of the exact time. What is best to put as my arrival time?"

Frustration at work comes from many reasons- not feeling valued, not being heard. Learning assertive communication is the best tool against frustration. The only thing we can change for sure is ourselves, and sometimes that means choosing a healthier workplace where you are appreciated.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth

 

I guess I did this to myself, but I don’t see how or why when we are over ratio and worked to exhaustion  that this was a priority for discipline... how about teaching, guiding , giving tools for success?  Isn’t that what managers are suppose to do at lease some of the time?   I didn’t communicate assertively...you’re right ...  assertive communication gets us in even more trouble, yelled at in front of colleagues which adds to the low self esteem which leads to less respect which leads to less teamwork and adds room for clinical judgement errors because we begin to not trust ourselves and our intuition ... because we become dumb nurses in our own minds.    I can’t agree with my lack of assertive communication being my downfall.  Nothing you can do pleases this manager.  Nothing you say, no amount of kindness or distance from her keeps you safe from sabotage.   This kind of psychology damage is criminal when our mental health is already spread thin... 

Thank you for your response.  It means so much to be acknowledged when it feels like the world is falling apart around you.  I appreciate you! 

I think the manager didn’t respond to you because she was giving you a message of “negativity”. The fact that you then walked into the situation that led to your resignation may have then only become a feather in her cap. When a person gets themselves (or is maneuvered) into a bad space at work is the time to buckle down and put another layer of armor on one’s back. Don’t waste time fantasizing about changing anything. Instead do some introspection on how you might better prevent this from happening again. Best wishes.

Nurse Beth, MSN

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

8 hours ago, Traumamama02 said:

I guess I did this to myself, but I don’t see how or why when we are over ratio and worked to exhaustion  that this was a priority for discipline... how about teaching, guiding , giving tools for success?  Isn’t that what managers are suppose to do at lease some of the time?   I didn’t communicate assertively...you’re right ...  assertive communication gets us in even more trouble, yelled at in front of colleagues which adds to the low self esteem which leads to less respect which leads to less teamwork and adds room for clinical judgement errors because we begin to not trust ourselves and our intuition ... because we become dumb nurses in our own minds.    I can’t agree with my lack of assertive communication being my downfall.  Nothing you can do pleases this manager.  Nothing you say, no amount of kindness or distance from her keeps you safe from sabotage.   This kind of psychology damage is criminal when our mental health is already spread thin... 

Thank you for your response.  It means so much to be acknowledged when it feels like the world is falling apart around you.  I appreciate you! 

I don't think lack of assertive communication was your downfall (not sure I can say exactly what was, it was a situation that probably built up over time), it's a tool to help you when dealing with difficult people like your manager and to spare you some frustration.

It honestly sounds like being away from this workplace is best for you. I hope you're able to put this behind you. Toxic people don't deserve your energy.

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

Wow, why wasn't your first punch in sufficient?  You have to punch twice?  Where I used to work we had time clocks when you walked in the door and also on the unit, but wherever we punched was the time.  I always punched at the door my whole career, but when the new mgr came she demanded we punch on the unit.  It might be 1-2 minutes later.   I simply refused to punch on the unit and kept punching in at the door.  If they didn't want us to do that, they could always remove that time clock.  She used to send emails that she could see where we punched, and threatened write ups, but that was the least of the problems!

One minute she was bragging about how she was going to get rid of the older staff to the new grads in their job interviews and started writing up the older nurses on bogus complaints in the Summer, but that stopped after Covid hit and they couldn't keep staff.  All of a sudden she was telling the old nurses she valued them and couldn't afford to lose them.  Very true as we were still paid 2-3 less than travelers getting crisis pay.

Your situation is unfortunate, but look at it as a blessing in disguise since you mentioned there were problems before.  I wouldn't waste time trying to change the culture.  Instead focus on dusting yourself off and your resume and getting a new job. 

You now have some nursing experience so that is good and focus on your references as I expect your employer will put you as a do not hire.  You can ask HR to confirm this, perhaps with Corona they won't bother to put a do not hire status on you.

Given the nursing shortage due to Corona, I doubt you will have any problems finding another job!

Good luck!