Posted by: Kate | October 22, 2008

I Didn’t Want to Know

One of my coworkers is apparently pilfering money from the overtime budget.

I wouldn’t have known – or cared – except that somehow our department’s timesheet (which is an Excel spreadsheet, not individual sheets for each employee) did not get submitted on Friday, so an email was sent out yesterday asking for someone, anyone, to submit it ASAP.  I was online, so I got the note, and decided to double-check my hours before I sent it in. 

My hours were fine.

This other employee had listed 76 hours’ worth of overtime in a two-week period, despite the fact that the calendar only showed 36 hours of time and I know that one of those shifts was traded with another employee, leaving an actual 24 hours worked.  Through one stretch, it would have reflected 96 consecutive hours of being on-call or in the office.

Yeah, it didn’t seem quite right to me, either.  Something about billing for 52 hours more than were actually worked doesn’t seem like it could have been a casual mistake.

There is no direct consequence of this behavior upon any of the other employees; I suppose that, after several months of it, the overtime budget might be exhausted and someone up above would have to scramble for the funds to let us continue staffing 24/7.  That wouldn’t take anything away from my paycheck and wouldn’t negatively impact anyone else’s pay.  It’s just a simple double-billing, screw the company, a victimless crime, right?

Maybe.  I don’t do it, mostly because I have had a lifelong terror of Getting in Trouble and am therefore constitutionally unable to deliberately break the rules on that level.  I’m just always convinced that I will get caught, so while I don’t try to live a pure and unblemished life, I do try to keep a low profile.  I don’t take liberties and stretch the truth in circumstances where seven or eight coworkers, plus a manager, plus payroll, have the opportunity to catch me in the act.  I’ll post to my blog from work (ahem) but I won’t bill for it after hours.

But that’s my choice, and frankly it’s not my job or my problem to worry about how others choose to purport themselves.  You want to skim money off the company in the form of fraudulent overtime claims?  Knock yourself out.  Just don’t involve me. 

I don’t consider myself to be the world’s policeman; I don’t need to go searching for ways in which other people are breaking the rules.  But when your actions are blatantly in my face, when I have been given that knowledge, now it has become my problem.  Now it’s in my head and I know about it and I can’t just forget.  Now I’m involved.


So I changed the timesheet to reflect the calendar hours, and I sat down with the manager this morning to present a very bland, chirpy, “maybe it’s all a big mistake” version of the whole thing.  I showed which hours I changed, and left it up to her to resolve.  I considered not doing the second step; I felt morally obligated to adjust the timesheet to reflect reality and we all know that I’ll have to check the next timesheet to see if this is an ongoing theme, but I didn’t feel that I necessarily had to involve the manager on the first offense. 

But after talking with my dad about it – my dad, who can be unbelievably absentee and self-centered at times but at other times is just the guy to talk out a professional sort of problem and give you a perspective you hadn’t considered – I realized that in certain views, the fact that I changed the timesheet without prior authorization could in itself be seen as a problem.  Better to bring that bit out into the open so that the problem remains between that employee and the manager, instead of throwing myself into the middle of it.

And I remain resentful.  Not that this employee screwed with the timesheet, because hey, if you’ve figured out a way to earn an extra $2,000 a month, more power to you.  I’m resentful that I even had to think all of this through, when I wasn’t even looking for it.

Ignorance is bliss.



  1. Your title sums it up. You didn’t want to know. And now this thief (and that is what she is) has put you in a bad position. And that sucks.

  2. I think you handled it perfectly. The ball is now in the manager’s court as it should be.

    As someone who worked in management for years, I can tell you that I consider this stealing or fraud or both. Not only can it get a person fired, it can get them arrested. When the embezzled funds exceed $500 (in my state), it becomes a felony offense.

    And the money stolen affects everyone. If the overtime budget needs to be increased to cover this later in the year, then those funds are going to have to come from somewhere.

    I’ll get off my soapbox now.

    I applaud you for doing the right thing.

  3. Oh, I agree, 100%, this is theft, theft is wrong, etc. I just don’t consider it part of my position to hunt down all of the sources of theft in my agency – or anywhere – to make people be more honest. This is part of why I’m not in management…


  4. I’m glad that you put it where it belongs – in the manager’s court. Now it’s up to him/her to proceed accordingly and it’s not your problem anymore.

  5. Urgh. How about that person’s self-respect, or the respect of their co-workers? They put such a small price on that.

  6. I don’t even know what I’d do in that situation. Probably bring it to that coworker’s attention if they were around and explain that they must have made a mistake; see here, where there’s only so-and-so hours in the pay period? Like that. So they would know I knew and wasn’t going to let it keep going. They’d have to stop if they wanted their job.

  7. Ohhh, right, there’s another little detail: this particular coworker is a manager in another department, and only does overtime (not regular hours) with my department.


  8. Some people just dont think of what may happen when the money is right there in front of them for the taking. I myself, think I’m too pretty for federal prison. That’s the only reason I’m not a criminal. I would make a great criminal, maybe a catburgler or an Art Thief, a guy who punches kids in thefce for lunch money!? Probably not. Miss Kate, try to get as far away from this particular situation as humanly possible, given that you can. I understand where you’re coming from, but don’t get caught up in it. It’s really a Me Myself and I area.

  9. Ooof. My guess? Person’s been pilfering in this manner a long, long time. Started with two hrs here and there, then 6, then 10, and suddenly they found they were hooked on the milk of this cash cow. Why did no one catch it? I’m curious. No oversight? Huh. Worked so well on Wall St too.

  10. oh no!!! that is U-G-L-Y (in bold and underlined!) I hope you can distance yourself from this person and “let management beat it out of them” or something of that nature. Stupid with the economy as it is you would think they would consider eventually getting caught as audits become more and more frequent. I could NEVER think of doing such a thing. Good luck!

  11. Bummer. I hate ending up in the middle of stuff like that. I think you handled it well.

  12. Kate honey, you did the right thing and for the right reasons. However, if you hadn’t alerted someone and the information was discovered via some other means, you could have still been implicated and Gotten in Trouble just for knowing about it and not telling.

    Ugh. I hate being dragged in or stuck in the middle of someone else’s shitpile.

  13. You did the right thing…. I would have done the same… hey I am the idiot who cant seem to even let someone give me the wrong change…. if I see there is an extra dollar I give it back….

  14. I’d be very pleased if one of my employees presented this to me. Then again, I’d be more mindful of my staff frankly! How can someone pay such incredible hours without tweaking that something might be awry?

  15. […] because pre-emptive ass-covering seems to be the theme of the month here at my workplace, I told my supervisor precisely why I was […]

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