Employee Must Pay Back Her Company After Computer 'Bossware' Catches Her Slacking Off

A Canadian court finds a woman guilty of 'time theft.' Critics call the company's actions spying.

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By Jonathan Small

A Canadian court has ordered a female employee to repay her employer after her laptop's software revealed that she was wasting time on the company's dime.

Karlee Besse, who worked remotely as an accountant for Reach CPA in British Columbia, was accused of "time theft" and must pay $2,459.89 in returned wages.

Besse had initially sued her company for wrongful termination, asking for $5000 in compensation. But in court, Reach CPA revealed that they had been tracking their employees' actions using TimeCamp, which collects information on how workers spend their time.

Through the software, the company proved that Besse had spent more than 50 hours on non-work-related tasks. According to a report in The Guardian, Reach CPA "identified irregularities between her [Besse's] timesheets and the software usage logs."

Besse argued that she printed out hard copies of documents she was working on, which is why the software didn't track her work. But the company pointed out that the software also monitored her printing activity — and she hadn't printed many documents.

Related: 78% of Employers Are Using Remote Work Tools to Spy on You. Here's a More Effective (and Ethical) Approach to Tracking Employee Productivity.

Bossware is watching

Software like TimeCamp is increasingly used by companies wanting to monitor their employees' work. A survey by Digital.com found that 60% of companies with remote employees use monitoring software to track employee activity and productivity.

So-called "bossware" blew up after Covid when companies looked for ways to ensure their remote employees were as productive and safe at home as they would be in the office. Companies argue that they use the software to help them run more efficient businesses.

Companies are also able to catch employees engaged in nefarious behavior. According to Digital.com, 88% of employers terminated workers after implementing monitoring software.

But many workers and labor unions believe the software is nothing more than corporate spying. Last November, The National Labor Relations Board, an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private-sector employees, announced they wanted to "clamp down" on companies using bossware.

"Close, constant surveillance and management through electronic means threaten employees' basic ability to exercise their rights," General Counsel Jennifer Abruzzo wrote in the memo.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center, a non-profit that has tackled the issue for years, says that bossware goes way beyond just tracking working hours.

"Internet monitoring and filtering, E-mail monitoring, instant message monitoring, automatic time tracking, phone monitoring, location monitoring, personality, and psychological testing, and keystroke logging" are all part of bossware, it says.

Karlee Besse found this out the hard way.

Jonathan Small

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief of Green Entrepreneur

Jonathan Small is editor-in-chief of Green Entrepreneur, a vertical from Entrepreneur Media focused on the intersection of sustainability and business. He is also an award-winning journalist, producer, and podcast host of the upcoming True Crime series, Dirty Money, and Write About Now podcasts. Jonathan is the founder of Strike Fire Productions, a premium podcast production company. He had held editing positions at Glamour, Stuff, Fitness, and Twist Magazines. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, and Good Housekeeping. Previously, Jonathan served as VP of Content for the GSN (the Game Show Network), where he produced original digital video series.

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