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Remote employee to repay $2k after tracking software disproves claims

Remote work is on the rise, but employers double down on monitoring efforts when bad apples take advantage of being offsite.

remote worker remote work, Instagram displayed on a desktop

The average remote worker deals with workplace discrimination from time to time. From managers saying that employees who work from home are wasting company time, to articles constantly being written about the lack of productivity of those who work from home offices. They are constantly under fire. When in reality, studies show that people who work from home are typically more productive and overall happier, making it a much more pleasant workplace for everyone.

It’s an uphill battle, however, to change peoples’ minds.

It doesn’t help when one rotten apple rolls right into the media. NPR reports that a Canadian accountant was ordered by the courts to pay her former employer upwards of $2,700 for participating in time theft.

This automatically puts a real damper on the remote work movement. 

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The accountant, was caught using a tracking software the company placed in her laptop. She was aware of this and claimed the software was confusing and hard to use. With every accusation by her former employer, Reach CPA, it seemed like she had an answer. 

The software can track what work files are open and for how long they remain open. The company did allow use of the work computer for personal use during off hours.

The accountant claimed the software could not differentiate between personal and work hours, which is why her numbers were skewed.

However, Reach CPA stated they do review all the tracking and make the final determination. They also showed the courts how the software can tell the difference between work related files and tasks versus personal use like streaming and visiting shopping sites. They even submitted that evidence to the court via video. 

In return, the accountant under fire stated that she worked with a lot of paper documents and said that when she brought up that problem, her employer “would not want to hear it.”

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The software proved to also be tracking printing from the laptop, and there were no files printed during the time paper documents were claimed to be used. Eventually, the accountant stated she improperly logged the 50 hours she had been confronted with and the courts gave her 30 days to pay back her employer for the time stolen

Time left is a funny thing, really. Anyone who has worked a job where they had to log their time has been told how serious “stealing” company time is.

The majority of us probably rolled our eyes and didn’t take our managers seriously when we were chewed out for taking 5 extra minutes for lunch. Instead, it probably made us angry. I know it angered me. Having an upset stomach and being railroaded into squeezing 2 bathroom breaks into an almost 9 hour workday is outrageous. The same goes for meal times.  

But what this accountant did is completely different and is an actual case of time theft. Her work ethic matters not, as it reenforces the idea that people who work remotely are unproductive. Several other cases are being fought over invasion of privacy by using software that tracks or records computer movements.

 Some companies even go as far as to require an employee to keep their camera on during all work hours. It is an invasion of privacy as we all expect a level of privacy in our own homes. However, if people abuse the software, companies will double down on efforts to keep track of every remote workers’ actions.

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A native New Englander who migrated to Austin on a whim, Stephanie Dominique is a freelance copywriter, novelist, and certificate enthusiast. When she's not getting howled at by two dachshunds or inhaling enough sugar to put a giant into shock, she is reading, cooking or writing about her passions.

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