Can my old boss sue me for not “doing my job”?

I left my job due to the fact that the job was causing me stress. I did everything she asked me to do but would sometimes end up on the computer for my own personal leisure. At the end of the day, all my work was done. She has records pulling my internet activity but that is it. I have also done jobs for her outside of the office that have not required me even sitting in front of a computer. She wants to get back all the money she has paid me this summer. I am a 20 year old college student who is working part-time for her.

Asked on July 16, 2015 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

In theory, if you spent excessive time on personal leisure or entertainment at work, you did steal from your employer: you represented that you were working when you were not, and were paid for time you spent on your own activities. You boss could sue you to recover that "overpayment"--the amount you were paid for work you did not do. She cannot recover money from work that you did do, however. She cannot get the money unless she sues you and wins. And making her case would be very difficult for her:

1) It is accepted that employees spend *some* time on their own projects, chores or entertainment at work. She would have to have good proof that you personal activities truly went beyond the norm and represented a theft of time from her business.

2) She could have fired you at any time for underperformance. If she knew of your leisure activities and did not fire you, she will be hard-pressed to recover money, since a court could conclude that by not firing you, she "ratified" how you worked. Only if the amount of time you spent on leisure, not work, was not known to her at the time should she have a good case for recovering money now.


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