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A New Twist on Outsourcing: Employee Outsources Work to China


Faced with a mounting inbox and no relief in sight, some employees may joke about paying someone to do their work. Well, one enterprising web developer recently did just that.

“Bob” (the moniker given to the still anonymous employee by investigators) outsourced his work to a Chinese company for 1/5 of his annual salary. Bob was employed as a computer programmer at a critical infrastructure firm in the United States. A long service employee in his 40s, Bob was thought to be the best developer in the building… that is, until the IT department started auditing remote-access log-ins. Through its investigation into a bizarre number of remote-access log-ins from Shenyang, China, the IT department and third-party investigators discovered that Bob was in fact outsourcing his work to a Chinese subcontractor.

According to the Globe and Mail, Bob paid the Shenyang firm $50,000 to carry out his daily tasks and assignments, a modest fraction of his $250,000 annual salary. Meanwhile, he spent his “free time” surfing social networking websites and watching cat videos online. The investigator’s blog describes Bob’s typical day:

        9:00 a.m. – Arrive and surf “Reddit” for a couple of hours. Watch cat videos

        11:30 a.m. – Take lunch

        1:00 p.m. – Ebay time.

        2:00 – ish p.m Facebook updates – LinkedIn

        4:30 p.m. – End of day update e-mail to management.

        5:00 p.m. – Go home

Bob also did some contract work on the side.  And yes – he may have outsourced that work as well. 

The standard for just cause dismissal is high, but this one might just meet the threshold. The daily “update” emails to management presumably led management to believe that Bob completed the work himself. Bob also sent encrypted keys and secure information to his Chinese subcontractor. Thus, Bob may have engaged in serious instances of dishonesty and disclosure of confidential information – both grounds for just cause dismissal.

Query whether it is an implied term of an employment contract that the employee actually does his or her work, and we can see that Bob’s actions could also constitute a fundamental breach of his employment contract. However, employers should be mindful that the situation may be different with a contractor or consultant. Unless the contract for services explicitly states that the contractor or consultant cannot subcontract the work, the contractor or consultant may be well within their rights to hire other individuals or companies to perform the services.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember is that Bob’s activities were only discovered because of IT concerns. Bob’s outsourcing story serves as a reminder to employers that even top-performing employees need to be supervised. It is doubtful that Bob would have gotten away with his subterfuge if he had been subject to close and consistent supervision.

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