Training Officer’s Termination Upheld For Time Card Theft And Dishonesty

CATEGORY: Client Update for Public Agencies, Fire Watch, Law Enforcement Briefing Room, Public Education Matters
CLIENT TYPE: Public Education, Public Employers, Public Safety
DATE: Feb 25, 2021

LCW Partner Laura Kalty and Associate Attorney English Bryant prevailed on behalf of a district attorney’s office in a training officer’s termination appeal following an arbitration hearing.

The employee’s new supervisor began to notice the employee, a non-exempt training officer, was frequently missing from the office, taking long lunches, and arriving late to work. The supervisor told the employee, verbally and in writing, to work the regularly scheduled hours and record time off accurately.  The supervisor also required the employee, if the employee was late or taking a long lunch, to inform the supervisor and deduct any time off.  Nonetheless, the employee continued to claim hours not actually worked.

During the relevant timeframe, the employee was involved in a separate incident that led to an internal investigation. The investigation expanded to review the time card issues, and the investigator obtained and reviewed the employee’s entry/exit data for a period of over one year. The data showed that the time cards the employee submitted were inaccurate and almost always in the employee’s favor. The investigator also determined that the employee had secretly recorded conversations with supervisors and co-workers without asking for permission, which is a violation of the Penal Code.

The district attorney’s office terminated the employee, and following the employee’s appeal, the matter proceeded to binding arbitration. At the hearing, the employee argued unfair treatment by supervisors and investigators, and asserted that the supervisors had always treated this employee as exempt with a flexible schedule.  The employee did not dispute that the current supervisor had specifically issued directives to work the assigned schedule and report all time accurately.  The employee admitted that the time card entries were inaccurate, and the department showed that the employee had falsely reported hundreds of hours of time worked.  The hearing officer upheld the termination based upon the employee’s time card theft and other dishonest statements, noting that dishonesty is incompatible with public service and that employees who work for law enforcement agencies are held to a higher standard.

Note: Agencies should ensure supervisors are diligent in tracking employee hours, particularly for non-exempt employees. If a question arises, it should be addressed promptly with the employee, and documented in writing. If there is any indication of time card abuse, agencies should conduct an investigation to obtain concrete evidence of an employee’s actual working hours.