The tumultuous events of the past few months have forced many companies to allow and enable employees to work from home, in order to minimize the risk of infection from COVID-19. Such arrangements, where there is little or no direct observation, can invite fraud by opportunistic individuals.
Some employers have gone to great lengths and expense to accommodate personal worker attendance by modifying the office place to afford for adequate social distancing and a sanitary environment. Nevertheless, some employees will probably object, citing a fear of infection. With at-risk groups this is especially understandable; however, the concern of some might be less than genuine. A key worker who refuses to come in to work because of health worries may not have the same concern when it comes to other daily activities. Investigation of the individual’s movements and interactions could prove the person to suffer only from “false alarm.”
Where companies have made a decision to support remote workers, there is the prospect of exploitation. With reduced oversight, some employees may be tempted to abuse the process. Time supposedly spent on company projects could be diluted by personal business or errands, especially if the employer is relying solely on the honor system. An individual committing significant time fraud often shows telltale signs such as lower productivity, missed deadlines, or untimely responses to calls and messages. Again, the misappropriated hours could come to light under targeted scrutiny by investigators.
Some remote workers might go so far as to feign or misrepresent a home injury in order to file a workers’ compensation claim. This is especially likely in the event that someone anticipates being furloughed. Rather than accepting such claims at face value, an astute employer may opt to observe the public movements of the employee. The overwhelming majority of claimants analyzed by ResultQuest over the years have proven to be misrepresenting the extent or existence of injuries, thereby saving the cost of premium increases.
Remote access to systems and files might also provide employees working remotely with the opportunity to steal company data. Sensitive proprietary information such as strategic data, R&D records, customer and contractor lists, sales tactics, and financial data could be attractive and marketable to rival entities. A disgruntled worker could even use such information to form a competing company or seek employment with a challenger. Technical safeguards are essential to detect and prevent such theft. However, such measures can and do fail. When they do, a comprehensive investigation will often provide evidence needed to pursue legal remedies.
If you have reason to believe that remote employees are abusing your trust, you can count on the professionals of ResultQuest to help you develop a plan to identify, document, and respond to the problem. Call us at 713-781-9040 for a complimentary initial consultation.