A small claim filed by a BC woman who said she was wrongfully fired seems to have backfired after a judge ordered her to pay her ex-employer about $1,500 for time theft.
Karlee Besse worked as an accountant for Reach CPA Inc. for about five months (from October 2021 and March 2022) remotely from home until she was fired. She claims the company fired her without cause and she was entitled to $1,371.60 for unpaid wages and $4,166.67 for a month’s severance pay in lieu of notice. She limited her claim to the Civil Resolution Tribunal’s (CRT) small claims monetary limit of $5,000.
Meanwhile, Reach disputed Besse’s claims saying there was cause for her termination since she engaged in time theft. It also said she was not entitled to severance pay and denied it owed her unpaid wages.
In its counterclaim, Reach said Besse owes $1,506.34 for time theft and $2,903 as the unforgiven part of an advance it made when she began working.
“After deducting $1,806.27 from her final paycheck, Reach says Miss Besse still owes $1,096.73 for the advance. Reach’s claims total $2,603.07,” the decision reads.
A few months after Besse was hired, she requested weekly meetings with her manager so she could better manage her files because “she felt unproductive and that she was not performing as well as she should have been.”
In February, Reach said it installed a time-tracking program called TimeCamp on Besse’s work laptop.
After creating a performance improvement plan after Besse’s files were over-budget and behind schedule, Reach started to worry about her timesheets.
Data from TimeCamp, which is software to track a computer user’s activity, was examined between February 22 and March 25 by Reach. It found Besse recorded 50.76 unaccounted hours on her timesheets despite it appearing that she did not work on work-related tasks.
Videos were submitted by Reach of how TimeCamp tracked Besse’s activity online.
“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 videos show TimeCamp captured the detail of each of Miss Besse’s activities which Reach could then use to distinguish between work and non-work activities,” tribunal member Megan Stewart wrote.
“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. 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.”
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Besse did not dispute the video evidence or Reach’s classification of her activities. However, she did say, she found TimeCamp challenging to use and had a hard time getting the program to differentiate between time spent working and time spent on the laptop for personal use. Besse was able to use her work laptop for personal use but during her free time.
“I find Miss Besse did not have to take steps to get TimeCamp to differentiate between her work and personal activities once she was logged onto the program,” Stewart responded. “I find TimeCamp automatically recorded activities in such a way that Reach could identify and classify them as work or non-work related.”
Besse also claims she worked with paper client documents which could not be tracked with TimeCamp and did not tell Reach because she was afraid and “knew they wouldn’t want to hear that.”
Printing activity was also recorded with TimeCamp but Besse add the software found the time Besse spent printing would not be for a large volume of documents which she would have needed for hard copies.
“Even if I accept Miss Besse was working in hard copy most of the time, there is no evidence she uploaded her work onto Reach’s electronic system, or otherwise demonstrated to Reach that she spent any significant amount of time performing work-related tasks in connection with the 50.76 unaccounted hours,” Stewart said.
As a result, Stewart found that TimeCamp “likely accurately recorded Miss Besse’s work activity and that there were 50.76 unaccounted hours recorded on Miss Besse’s timesheets.”
“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,” Stewart wrote.
In total, Besse was ordered to reimburse Reach for the time theft and the outstanding portion of the advance ($2,603.07), pre-judgment interest under the COIA ($28.82), and CRT fees ($125) for a total of $2,756.89.
Besse’s claims were dismissed.