While most employees would consider pilfering office equipment or supplies as a form of theft, most don't see misappropriated time on the job in the same way. However, using work hours to attend to personal matters or otherwise use your employer’s time for your own gain is, in fact, a form of theft. The repercussions for this transgression depend on how strict your employer's policies are.
Stealing time on the job may not be easy for an employer to identify. In particular, using your work computer for personal things such as checking e-mail or online shopping is difficult to pinpoint and trace unless the employer has a site-tracking feature in place. However, if you are caught and confronted, one punishment might be to dock your paycheck. If your employer figures you spent an hour on your e-mail, expect to see your next paycheck short by one hour.
An employer who suspects you are stealing time may punish you by increasing oversight of your job performance. This might include requiring you to check in on a regular basis, account for the use of your time, and provide more regular progress updates or status reports to demonstrate how you are use your scheduled work hours. You might even have your workstation moved to a central or open area where your boss can monitor your whereabouts and activity.
Your employer may decide to demote you and lower your pay grade as punishment for stolen work time. He might do this to make an example of you -- showing others the results of utilizing work time for personal purposes. You could lose leadership status if your employer has lost faith in you or does not believe you are setting a good example for coworkers. You also might be prohibited from applying for upper level positions or qualifying for a future promotion or salary increase.
Depending on the severity of the stolen time, your employer may take disciplinary action, such as putting you on probation, suspending you or even terminating your employment. Employers probably will give you a warning before taking this type of drastic action. However, you should review your employer’s policies and procedures in your employee handbook, or consult human resources about how the company handles disciplinary action.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.