Time Theft is Theft

April 3, 2024

A recent decision from western Canada gives employers confidence that circumstantial evidence can be relied on to justify the termination of an employee for time theft. The decision also provides support for categorizing time theft as theft in the ordinary sense of the word, for disciplinary purposes.

Time theft is generally understood as the falsification of employee time records which allow employees to be paid for work they did not perform. Employers have had increasing concerns about time theft as more positions become remotely based and methods of supervising employees change.


In Fujitec Canada Inc. v The International Union of Elevator Constructors, Local 130 Calgary, Alberta, 2024 CanLII 4119 (AB GAA), the employer was in the business of constructing, maintaining and modernizing elevators, escalators and moving sidewalks. Employees of the business were represented by the International Union of Elevator Constructors, local 130 Calgary.

The grievor at issue was an elevator mechanic working on an elevator construction project at a local bank. The grievor submitted time sheets to his employer representing that he had been working through most of his breaks, allowing him to leave work early and still be paid for eight hours.

The grievor’s regular workday was 8.5 hours, which included two unpaid 15-minute breaks and one unpaid 30 minute lunch break. The employer permitted employees to work through their breaks and leave early, so long as they actually worked the number of hours they were expected to. During the relevant period, the grievor claimed to have worked at least 8 hours of paid time per shift.

The employer suspected the grievor of falsifying his time sheets and terminated his employment in December 2022. The union grieved his termination and claimed he was terminated without just cause. In the alternative, the union claimed that if it was appropriate to discipline the employee, the penalty of termination was too severe. The union sought compensation for lost wages and benefits for the period the grievor was unemployed. The grievor secured other employment approximately 10 weeks after being terminated so the union did not seek his reinstatement.


Adjudicator Casey considered three questions, commonly referred to as the William Scott test for Discipline and Discharge, to determine whether discharge was an appropriate response to the grievor’s conduct. The test includes the following questions:

1. Has the employee given just and reasonable cause for some form of discipline by the employer?
2. If so, was the employer’s decision to dismiss the employee an excessive response in all of the circumstances of the case?
3. If the arbitrator does consider discharge excessive, what alternative measure should be substituted as just and equitable?

Adjudicator Casey noted that time theft was a serious industrial offence which can justify termination, even for long-service employees. Arbitrators and the courts have been inclined to treat time theft seriously because it is a form of fraud that permits an employee to be paid for work they did not perform. It undermines the trust that is fundamental in time recording systems.

The employer’s case against the grievor was based on circumstantial evidence. Electronic gates, referred to as turnstiles, were installed at the bank to control access to the project site. It required authorized personnel to swipe access cards to enter or exit the site. This system stored the name of the individual, their company and the time they entered and exited.

The foreman of the project told a project supervisor that he had concerns about the grievor’s hours of work. The project supervisor reviewed a report from the turnstiles, which indicated that the grievor was leaving the project site throughout the day and leaving early. It appeared that he was not working through his breaks as he claimed on his time sheets.

During the period of October 17, 2021, to November 17, 2021, the grievor left the project site at least once during each of his shifts. These absences varied from eight minutes to over an hour. During the same period, he consistently left work early or claimed overtime that did not correspond to the turnstiles’ reports.

The union claimed that the data collected by the turnstiles was not reliable. They argued that the grievor’s work assignment required him to exit and re-enter the work site. They also took the position that the grievor was unfairly disciplined, given that other employees showed discrepancies in their time sheets and site access, but only the grievor faced termination.

The grievor claimed that he left the project site at times to unload trucks or to discuss project related questions with contractors from another company that were based outside of the turnstiles.

Arbitrator Casey found that the various witnesses, including the grievor himself, had established that there were few work-related tasks that would require him to enter and exit the project site as often as he had.

The turnstiles data was considered accurate. There was evidence that one of the turnstiles was experiencing problems. However, this unit was repaired two days into the relevant period and the grievor claimed that he usually used a different unit when entering and exiting the site.

Arbitrator Casey found that the grievor regularly took lengthy breaks during his shift and worked significantly less time than he claimed to have worked. Termination was considered appropriate since the conduct appeared to be pre-meditated and intentional.

Trust is an important aspect of an elevator mechanics’ job because they self-monitor their work and self-report their hours. In this case, the employer had a policy that theft warranted termination. Time theft was considered to fall within the definition of “theft” in the policy. As such, time theft caused a breakdown of the employment relationship and the grievor’s termination was justified.

Arbitrator Casey did not have enough evidence to determine whether the grievor was discriminated against, as the union claimed.


Time theft can be correctly categorized as “theft” according to the ordinary use of the word. As such, workplace policies on theft and the discipline it attracts, can be applied to time theft committed by employees.

An employer does not need to show direct evidence to prove that an employee has committed time theft. Circumstantial evidence that shows time theft likely occurred, is enough to justify discipline.

When disciplining an employee for time theft, the penalties imposed can vary in severity. Serious penalties, including termination, are appropriate for workers who perform their duties independently with little supervision. Trust is an essential element in these types of employer-employee relationships and must be protected.

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