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Employer Rights – Time Theft in the Workplace

February 7th, 2023 in Employment & Severance

Time theft refers to when employees actively engage in activities not related to their job while they are being paid by their employer. It can include things like personal phone calls, internet browsing, or even taking long breaks. In some cases, employees are billing for time they did not work, using their work time to conduct personal errands or browsing social media, and even sleeping on the job. 

In Canada, time theft is considered to be a form of employee theft and can result in legal action taken by the employer. In the age of remote working, time theft has become a significant concern for employers.

How to Catch a Time Thief

Employers may be able to use surveillance methods such as video cameras or time-tracking software to gather evidence of time theft, however, they must ensure they are following all applicable privacy laws in doing so. It is important for employers to have a clear employee surveillance policy that is compliant with these laws. 

If an employee is found to be engaging in time theft, the employer may implement disciplinary action. This can involve verbal or written warnings, suspension or even termination. 

Legal Remedies for Time Theft

If an employee has engaged in time theft, the employer may terminate their employment for just cause and potentially seek legal action to recover lost wages. 

The employer may file a civil lawsuit against the employee if they believe the employee has stolen company time or resources. This is precisely what happened in the case of Besse v. Reach CPA Inc

In this case, the employee was terminated following a meeting in which she was unable to account for irregularities between her timesheets and the software usage logs. She sued her former employer for wrongful dismissal, and the employer counterclaimed against her alleging time theft. 

The Court reviewed the evidence, including Ms. Besse’s timesheets and her activity (or inactivity) recorded by a software usage program, and concluded that Ms. Besse had engaged in time theft. The Court held that not only did this result in an irreparable breakdown in the employment relationship, but also that the employer was entitled to compensation for the unaccounted hours. The Court dismissed Ms. Besse’s claim for wrongful dismissal and awarded the employer damages in an amount that was equivalent to the unaccounted hours. 

Protect Yourself from Time Theft

It is important for employers to understand the legal implications of time theft and to have policies and procedures in place to prevent and address the issue. Similarly, it is important for employees to understand the potential consequences of engaging in such behaviour.

Vice & Hunter LLP is Equipped to Handle Your Case

Vice & Hunter is a well-established employment law firm.  Led by Partner J.F. Lalonde who has over 16 years of experience, our team of employment lawyers are eager to provide you with the right advice to help you to properly navigate through any employment issue.

Call our employment lawyers at (613) 232-5773 or fill out our online form below. We represent employees and employers in Ottawa and Eastern Ontario.