A CPA has been fired and fined $2756 because of tracking software that found discrepancies in her work hours.
Remote work has made some corporate leaders paranoid about employee productivity. As a result, several companies have started using tracking software to monitor their staff. The technology measures vanity metrics, like how many emails have been sent, the number of virtual meetings attended, and the time they spent typing on the keyboard.
But the tracking software completely disregards time spent thinking, reading, or writing on paper. It also fails to measure accomplishments and outcomes. Despite these discrepancies, a Canadian accountant was fired for being unproductive at her job. A civil tribunal, which is part of Canada’s judicial system, says Karlee Besse owes her former company $2,756.
According to NPR, the tracking software said Besse misrepresented over 50 hours at work. The accountant worked remotely for Reach CPA, an accounting firm based in British Columbia, Canada. The legal dispute began in 2022 when Besse said she was fired without “just cause.” But her employer argued that the termination of employment was fair as she engaged in time theft.
Reach CPA said it gathered evidence using tracking software called Time Camp which records what files are accessed, and for how long. The data displayed a discrepancy of 50 hours between work time reported by Besse and the information logged by Time Camp. But the employee said this was because the program was difficult to use.
As a result, she could not get the tracking software to differentiate between work and time spent on her work laptop for personal use. This arrangement, which allowed staff to use laptops after hours, was previously agreed to by both parties. However, Reach CPA showed that Time Camp can differentiate work from time spent on non-work sites, like streaming services.
However, the company makes the final distinction between work and non-work activities. Still, Besse argued that she spent a significant amount of time working with paper documents. She didn’t tell her company about it because they wouldn’t care. But the tracking software also makes note of printing activity. And the company found no evidence that she printed documents.
When the company confronted her with the 50 additional hours, Besse said she filled out her timesheet incorrectly. “I’ve plugged time into files that I didn’t touch and that wasn’t right or appropriate, she explained in a meeting with her bosses. “I recognize that and I’m really sorry.” But, siding with the tracking software, the Civil Resolution Tribunal dismissed her claims.
In its ruling, the Canadian court said Besse has 30 days to pay back her former employer for the unaccounted time she was paid for and other associated costs, NPR reports. While more companies use tracking software to monitor remote staff, privacy advocates say it’s intrusive. They worry that it will normalize workplace surveillance even when people return to the office.
Still, employers see these programs as a tool to ensure people aren’t slacking off. These programs have also been hailed as a great way to improve work efficiency. According to The New York Times, eight of the 10 largest American companies monitor their employees with tracking software.