A Canadian accountant has been ordered to pay her employer $2,756 after they installed a time-tracking software on her laptop, showing she had misrepresented over 50 hours of work.
Karlee Besse was fired from her remote job at the British Columbia-based accounting firm Reach CPA last year without “just cause” she claimed, according to a civil tribunal filed on 11 January, 2023.
Beese sought $5,000 in compensation, both in unpaid wages and one month’s severance pay. However, Reach CPA argued it rightfully terminated Besse because she engaged in “time theft” – a term for when an employee paid for work they have not actually done, or for time they were not actually at work.
In February 2022, Besse initiated meetings with her manager because she felt unproductive, which prompted Reach CPA to install a time-tracking program on her work laptop called TimeCamp.
Although Besse claimed that she found TimeCamp difficult to use and could not get the program to differentiate between time spent working and time spent on the laptop for personal use, videos submitted to the small claims court showed TimeCamp was able to differentiate between work and non-work activities using electronic pathways.
As a result, TimeCamp identified irregularities between Besse’s recorded timesheets and the work activity logged by the software. In total, Besse had a discrepancy of 50.76 hours which she reported as time worked on her timesheet, compared to the work activity that TimeCamp had logged.
When Reach CPA met with Besse in late March 2022 to discuss some of the discrepancies recorded by TimeCamp, Besse claimed that she felt “backed into a corner” and argued that she spent a number of hours working with paper documents, but didn’t tell her company because “they wouldn’t want to hear that.”
However, Reach CPA said that TimeCamp also tracks printing activity, and found no evidence that she “printed the large volume of documents she would have needed to work on in hard copy.”
“Clearly, I’ve plugged time to files that I didn’t touch and that wasn’t right or appropriate in any way or fashion, and I recognise that and so for that I’m really sorry,” Besse said in a meeting with her manager, according to court documents. Reach CPA then decided to terminate Besse’s employment in late March 2022.
The Civil Resolution Tribunal ultimately dismissed Karlee Besse’s “just cause” claim, and ordered Besse to repay Reach CPA a total of $2,756.89 – including damages for time theft and additional costs – within 30 days.
In a post-pandemic era of remote working, more companies have installed tracking software on workers’ computers to ensure employees stay focused on work-related tasks while working from home.