The parties in this dispute (Besse v. Reach CPA Inc, 2023 BCCRT 27 (CanLII), Karlee Besse and Reach CPA Inc. (Reach), disputed the terms of Miss Besse’s dismissal from Reach. Karlee Besse was hired as an accountant by Reach on October 12, 2021. However, her employment was terminated on March 29, 2022, for cause. Ms. Besse alleged that she was wrongfully dismissed by Reach, and is entitled to $5,538.27 in unpaid wages and severance pay. However, she limited her claim to $5,000, which is the maximum amount allowed by the CRT for small claims disputes.
Reach denied owing Ms. Besse any unpaid wages, and alleged that she engaged in time theft while employed. They also alleged that she owed them $1,096.73 for an advance they made when she began working.
Evidence & Analysis
Reach’s analysis of Ms. Besse’s timesheets and usage of TimeCamp revealed discrepancies between the two. Videos submitted by Reach demonstrated how TimeCamp tracked Ms. Besse’s time and activity, and appear to show Ms.Besse recording work time on her timesheets that was not shown in TimeCamp. Reach submitted to the Tribunal that, based on an analysis of Ms. Besse’s timesheets and TimeCamp data, there were irregularities which justified the termination of her employment due to time theft.
In response, Ms. Besse stated that she found TimeCamp difficult to use and was unable to get the program to differentiate between time spent working and time spent on the laptop for personal use.
However, based on Reach’s evidence of the use of TimeCamp, the Tribunal found that she did not have to take steps to get TimeCamp to differentiate between work and personal activities once she was logged into the program. The program automatically recorded activities in a way that permitted the classification of time spent on the computer as work- or non-work-related.
The Tribunal concluded that Ms. Besse did not work on certain files for which she had recorded time spent in her timesheets, and accepted Reach’s calculation of 50.76 hours of time theft.
Ms. Besse argued that she spent a significant amount of time working with paper copies of client documents, which TimeCamp would not have captured. However, Reach submitted TimeCamp data to show that the time Ms. Besse spent printing meant that she could not have printed large volumes of documents, which she would have needed to work in hard copy. Additionally, she would have had to enter information into the software eventually, even if working in hard copy, which was not shown in the TimeCamp data.
The Tribunal accepted Reach’s evidence and found that Ms. Besse’s printing volume did not add up, and she did not upload the work that she claimed to have done on paper.
The Tribunal found that Reach had just cause to terminate Ms. Besse’s employment due to her time theft, which it determined was a “very serious form of misconduct.”
The Tribunal dismissed Ms. Besse’s claims for pay and unpaid wages, and ordered her to reimburse Reach for the outstanding balance on the advance agreement (which included her CPA fees), as well as damages for time theft, plus interest, and Tribunal fees.
Ms. Besse was ordered to pay Reach CPA Inc. a total of $2,756.89, broken down as follows:
- $2,603.07 in debt and damages for time theft and the outstanding part of the advance Reach made to Ms. Besse,
- $28.82 in pre-judgment interest under the COIA, and
- $125 in CRT fees.
Takeaways for Employers
This decision is good news for employers, particularly those who are concerned about time theft when employees are working remotely. In this case, as the judgement read “Given that trust and honesty are essential to an employment relationship, particularly in a remote-work environment where direct supervision is absent,[…] Miss Besse’s misconduct led to an irreparable breakdown in her employment relationship with Reach […] dismissal was proportionate in the circumstances.” In this case, the time tracking software was essential for the judgement. However, employers should take note that there are legal risks for tracking employee activity, specifically if they are doing it covertly, and ensure that employees are aware of how and why they are being tracked.