B.C. tribunal finds employee 'did not work on files she recorded time for in her timesheets, leading to the unaccounted hours'
A B.C. worker who claimed she was wrongfully terminated by her employer now has to pay back wages she earned because she engaged in “time theft”.
In Besse v. Reach CPA Inc., the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) in British Columbia ordered Karlee Besse, formerly an accountant at Reach CPA, to pay her previous employer $2,603 in debt and damages for time theft, and the outstanding part of the advance she was given by the company.
The worker was earning an annual salary of $55,000 during the period of the incident.
Besse initially filed a claim alleging that accounting firm Reach wrongfully dismissed her on March 29, 2022 without just cause. She joined the company on Oct. 12, 2021, under the agreement that she would work remotely from home.
She claimed she was entitled to $1,371 for unpaid wages and $4,166 for one month’s severance pay in lieu of notice, for a total of $5,538. However, she limited her claim to $5,000, which is the CRT’s small claims monetary limit.
Reachl, however, said that the worker was not entitled to severance pay because she was dismissed for time theft.
Previously, an Ontario manager resigned to avoid investigation into time theft.
On Feb. 21, Reach installed a time-tracking program called TimeCamp on Besse’s work laptop. It can record when and for how long a worker has a document open or is using the file.
On March 16, the parties met to discuss some of Besse’s files that Reach said were over-budget and behind schedule, and they created a performance improvement plan.
After the meeting, Reach says it became concerned about a timesheet entry Besse had made for a file she had not worked on. Then, “FG” – Reach’s principal – analyzed Besse’s TimeCamp data between Fed. 22 and March 25, and found 50.76 unaccounted hours that the worker had reported on her timesheets but did not appear to have spent on work-related tasks.
Besse says she found TimeCamp difficult to use and she could not get the program to differentiate between time spent working and time spent on the laptop for personal use.
“I find TimeCamp automatically recorded activities in such a way that Reach could identify and classify them as work or non-work related,” said Megan Stewart, tribunal member, in the decision.
“I also find the videos show that as tracked in TimeCamp, Miss Besse did not work on files she recorded time for in her timesheets, leading to the unaccounted hours.”
The worker also claimed that she spent significant time working with paper copies of client documents that would not have been captured by TimeCamp. However, Reach provided TimeCamp data of Besse’s printing activity which showed she could not have printed the large volume of documents she would have needed to work on in hard copy.
Reach also said even if she had been working on files in hard copy, she would have had to enter information into the software at some point, which the TimeCamp data did not indicate occurred.
In order for a culpable action to be accurately characterized as time theft, that action must include “an overtly fraudulent act,” Leah Schatz, a partner with MLT Aikins LLP in Saskatoon, previously noted.
The tribunal dismissed the worker’s claim and ordered her to pay the amount earlier mentioned.
“Time theft in the employment context is viewed as a very serious form of misconduct,” said Stewart. “Given that trust and honesty are essential to an employment relationship, particularly in a remote-work environment where direct supervision is absent, I find Miss Besse’s misconduct led to an irreparable breakdown in her employment relationship with Reach and that dismissal was proportionate in the circumstances. So, I find Reach had just cause to terminate Ms. Besse’s employment.”