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In Canada, an employee ordered to pay former employer for ‘time theft’ while working remotely

An employee in Canada was fired and has been ordered to reimburse her former company for ‘time theft’ while she was working from home.

Remote work
© Bibhash Banerjee

The Civil Resolution Tribunal in British Columbia on January 11 ordered an employee to pay her former employer a total of C$2,757 (US$2,058), including C$1,506 for time theft.

The woman, Ms Besse, was hired as an accountant but was fired five months later on March 2022. She claimed the company, Reach CPA Inc, terminated her employment without just cause and sought C$5,000 in damages for unpaid wages and severance.

On the other hand, the company argued Ms Besse who was working remotely was engaged in time theft. Furthermore, the company pleaded it didn’t make her entitled for severance pay and didn’t owe unpaid wage.

In such civil procedure, the employer bears the burden of proving any misconduct and the tribunal member was convinced by the company’s arguments.

Ms Besse started to work as an accountant on October 2021. Both parts agreed that she would work remotely and the company advanced money for her to purchase home office equipment and pay her chartered professional accountant professional education program fees.

The advance accounted for C$3,667, which was to be forgiven every month over 24 months from her paycheck. At the time of the contract termination, the unforgiven part of the advance was C$2,903, which was partially withheld by the company on her last paycheck.

It was agreed she could use her work laptop for personal use during personal time.

In February 2022, the company installed a time-tracking program called TimeCamp on Ms Besse’s work laptop.

The software is able to record when and for how long users had a document open or were in the file. If the employee access a streaming service, which is not part of her work as an accountant, TimeCamp would record the electronic pathway and how long the service was accessed. The manager would then classify this time as personal use.

But in March, the company was concerned about a timesheet entry she had made for a file she had not worked on. Her manager analyzed TimeCamp data over the last month and found that 51 unaccounted hours had been reported by the employee on her timesheets but did not appear to have spent on work-related tasks.

The plaintiff did not dispute the classification of her activities by the company. She said she found the software hard to use and as such could not explain the unaccounted hours. But it didn’t convince the tribunal member. During a video-recorded meeting with her employer, Ms Besse also acknowledged that she “plugged hours that [she] shouldn’t have plugged to files when [she] wasn’t working on them” and said she was sorry for that.

The former employee also claimed she used hard copies and didn’t tell her boss, but printing activity recorded by the software gave evidence printing volume did not add up and that she did not upload work she did in hard copy.

In the end, the former employee who had an annual salary of C$55,000 needs to pay the company C$2,603 in debt and damages, C$1,506 for time theft and C$1,097 for the outstanding portion of the advance, plus C$29 of interest along with a C$125 fee to the tribunal.

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