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A women in Canada has been ordered by a civil tribunal to pay damages to her former employer for “time theft” after she was caught claiming for unworked hours by tracking software.

Karlee Besse, who was a home-based company accountant in British Columbia, initially argued she had been wrongfully sacked and sought $5,000 (£3,056) compensation for unpaid wages and severance.

But Reach CPA said it had fired her because she had “engaged in time theft” and counterclaimed for the wages paid for the misrepresented hours as well as the outstanding amount on an advance made to Ms Besse when she began working.

The firm said it found Ms Besse had recorded more than 50 hours on her timesheets that “did not appear to have spent on work-related tasks”.

Reach had previously installed staff-tracking software called TimeCamp on her work laptop after she had started having weekly performance meetings with her manager.

The tribunal document into the case stated: “Reach says its analysis of Miss Besse’s timesheets and TimeCamp data identified irregularities between her timesheets and the software usage logs.

“Reach submitted videos showing how TimeCamp tracked Miss Besse’s time and activity.

“It says the videos prove Miss Besse engaged in time theft by recording work time in her timesheets that was not tracked by TimeCamp.”

Ms Besse said she found the software difficult to use and could not get it to differentiate between work and personal use.

But the company showed how Timecamp could distinguish between the two, such as if it had been used to access streaming services like Disney+ and for how long.

Ms Besse also said she had spent a significant amount of time working with paper copies of client documents that would not have been captured by TimeCamp and did not tell Reach because she “knew they wouldn’t want to hear that” and was afraid.

The firm provided TimeCamp data showing Ms Besse’s printing, which it said showed she could not have produced the amount of hard copies needed and that details would have to be entered into the software at some point, which had not happened.

‘I’m really sorry’, says accountant

When confronted with the timekeeping analysis at a video recorded meeting with the company, Ms Besse said: “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… I can’t hide that.”

Tribunal member Megan Stewart found Reach had proved Ms Besse had engaged in time theft, which she described as “a very serious form of misconduct”.

Throwing out the wrongful dismissal claim, she said: “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.”

She ordered Ms Besse to pay Reach a total of $2,757 (£1,691), including “debt and damages for time theft” and the outstanding part of the advance she had received from the firm.


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