Woman ordered to repay employer after software shows ‘time theft’. Source: The Guardian

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Woman ordered to repay employer after software shows ‘time theft’

Company tells Canadian tribunal it installed software on Karlee Besse’s laptop after finding files over budget and behind schedule

The judge tossed out Besse’s claim of wrongful termination and ordered her to pay C$2,459.89.

The judge tossed out Besse’s claim of wrongful termination and ordered her to pay C$2,459.89. Photograph: izusek/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Leyland Cecco in TorontoThu 12 Jan 2023 16.17 GMT Last modified on Fri 13 Jan 2023 08.11 GMT

A Canadian woman has been ordered by a civil tribunal to compensate her former employer for “time theft” after she was caught misrepresenting hours worked by controversial tracking software.

Karlee Besse, who worked remotely as an accountant in British Columbia, initially claimed she was fired from her job without cause last year and sought C$5,000 ($3,729; £3,066) in compensation – both in unpaid wages and severance.

But the company, Reach CPA, told the tribunal Beese had logged more than 50 hours that “did not appear to have spent on work-related tasks”.

Reach said it installed employee-tracking software called TimeCamp on Besse’s work laptop after it found her assigned files were over budget and behind schedule, a strategy companies are increasingly taking in the era of remote work.

The software tracks how long a document is open, how the employee uses the document and logs the time as work.

Weeks later, the company said an analysis “identified irregularities between her timesheets and the software usage logs”.

Illustration: Ben Hickey

While Besse told the tribunal she found the program “difficult” and worried it didn’t differentiate between work and personal use, the company demonstrated how TimeCamp automatically makes those distinctions, separating time logs for work from activities such as using the laptop to stream movies and television shows.

Besse said she had printed documents to work on, but did not tell Reach she was using hard copy because she “knew they wouldn’t want to hear that” and she was afraid of repercussions.

The company said that the software also tracks printing – and that few documents had been logged as printed. It also said any work from the printed documents would have needed to be input into the company’s software, which never happened.

According to a video meeting between Besse and the company when they confronted her with the discrepancies, she told her manager “you can’t fight the time”, admitting she had “plugged time to files that I didn’t touch and that wasn’t right or appropriate in any way or fashion … and so for that I’m really sorry”.

The judge tossed out Besse’s claim of wrongful termination and ordered her to pay C$2,459.89, both in returned wages and as a part of previous advance she had received from the company.

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