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B.C. woman ordered to repay employer for 'time theft'

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ordered a woman to pay her Courtenay employer $2,603 for time theft and a pay advance.
An accountant must pay her ex-employer for time theft, B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ruled. | Kinga Krzeminska/Moment/Getty Images

B.C.’s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ordered a woman to pay her Courtenay employer $2,603 for time theft and a pay advance.

“Time theft in the employment context is viewed as a very serious form of misconduct,” tribunal member Megan Stewart said in a Jan. 11 decision.

Reach CPA Inc. employed Karlee Besse as an accountant from Oct. 12, 2021 to March 29, 2022, Stewart said.

Besse claimed Reach terminated her employment without just cause, that she was entitled to $1,371 for unpaid wages and $4,166.67 for one month’s severance pay in lieu of notice.

However, Reach said it terminated Besse’s employment for time theft. The company told the tribunal it terminated Besse for cause with no entitlement to severance pay. The company counterclaimed, asserting Besse owed it $1,506 for the paid wages it said amounted to time theft.

Further, Reach said, at the time it terminated Besse’s employment, she owed $2,903 as the unforgiven part of an advance Reach made when she began working.

After deducting the time issue amount from her final paycheck, Reach claimed Besse still owed $1,096 for the advance. Reach’s claim totalled $2,603.07.

Time-tracking program installed on computer

The tribunal said Besse and the company reached an agreement Sept. 20, 2021 for her to work remotely from home.

On Oct. 12, 2021, the parties signed another agreement. That document set out terms under which Reach would forgive an advance it made Besse to purchase home office equipment and pay her chartered professional accountant professional education program fees.

In February 2022, Besse began having weekly meetings with her manager to help her better manage her files. She said she initiated the meetings to improve her productivity and performance.

On Feb. 21, 2022, Reach installed a time-tracking program called TimeCamp on Besse’s work laptop. Soon, the parties met to discuss some of Besse’s files Reach said were over-budget and behind schedule, and they created a performance improvement plan.

After the meeting, Reach became concerned about a timesheet entry Besse had made for a file she had not worked on.

The firm’s principal analyzed Besse’s TimeCamp data between Feb. 22 and March 25, 2022 and found 50.76 unaccounted hours Besse reported on her timesheets but did not appear to have spent on work-related tasks.

On March 29, 2022, the parties met to discuss the unaccounted-for hours. The principal offered her time to consider the situation but she declined, Stewart said.

Besse’s employment was ended later that day.

She claimed she found TimeCamp difficult to use. Still, the company submitted videos to the tribunal showing how it said Besse had engaged in time theft.

“The videos show where an employee opens a document or accesses a client file, TimeCamp records when and for how long they had the document open or were in the file," the tribunal's ruling said.

TimeCamp captured the detail of each of Besse’s activities that Reach could then use to distinguish between work and non-work activities.

“For example, if Miss Besse had a streaming service like Disney Plus open, TimeCamp recorded its electronic pathway and how long the service was accessed. As this was not activity associated with client work, Reach would classify it as personal,” Stewart said. “Similarly, if she accessed a client file, used software associated with client work, or printed client documents, TimeCamp recorded those electronic pathways and the time spent on each task, and Reach classified this as work activity.”

Besse did not dispute the video evidence or Reach’s classification of her activities.

Stewart accepted the TimeCamp evidence as showing Besse did not work on files she recorded time for in her timesheets, leading to the unaccounted hours.

However, Besse said she spent time working on paper files that would not be recorded, activity she did not tell Reach about.

In the end, the tribunal accepted Reach’s argument that Besse’s printing volume did not add up and that she did not upload work she did in hard copy. As such, Stewart dismissed the woman's claim.

Stewart found Reach was entitled to compensation for the unworked hours as well as the advance amount.

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