At the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, many employers transitioned their employees to a temporary work-from-home model. Although some employees have since transitioned back to the office, many others are continuing to work from home on a permanent basis.

The rise of remote working has been accompanied by a debate about the impact of this new model on worker productivity. While some have rung the alarm bells about excessive time-wasting, others have oppositely claimed that working from home has contributed to increased burnout and difficulty maintaining a healthy work-life balance. While the jury is still out on the impact of working from home on overall productivity, its widespread use as a business practice poses important legal considerations for both employers and employees.

What Is Time Theft?

Many people are not aware that they are committing time theft when they go on Facebook or other social media sites while at work. It may not sound harmful but after multiplying these actions, over time it can result in substantial time loss for the Employer.

Some examples of time theft are:

  • Claiming excess hours on a timesheet;
  • Arriving late and leaving early;
  • Unauthorized or extended breaks;
  • Answering personal phone calls and emails;
  • Performing personal tasks during company time; or
  • Social media use.

Overall, time theft is a big problem in many companies, and it can be stopped by installing software that records what employees are typing on their computer, having better policies for working from home, or by increasing supervision.

Can An Employer Fire An Employee For Time Theft?

Employees need to understand that time theft is never right, and they should be aware of what they’re doing when working to avoid accidentally committing it.

Generally speaking, an employer can fire an employee for allegedly stealing time.  Whether or not an employer will terminate the employment of an employee for time theft will typically depend on the seriousness of the time theft and the past discipline of the employee.

What Happens If An Employer Suspects Time Theft?

It is essential that an employer conduct a proper investigation prior to taking any disciplinary steps.  Clear warnings, progressive discipline and expectations should be set for anyone that has been found to committed time theft.  For serious and ongoing time theft, an employer may take more serious steps such a terminating the employment relationship.

Unfortunately, every situation is different so, if you have been fired for time theft, or if you are concerned that an employee has committed time theft, it is important to speak with an experienced employment lawyer. An employment lawyer can help you understand your rights and may help avoid costly litigation.