You go to work, and you work hard. The last thing you expect is to be charged with workplace theft. The charge of workplace theft is not as straightforward as you might imagine. Because a variety of factors can play important roles in such charges, it is important to understand the basics.
Proving Alleged Workplace Theft
To bring a case of workplace theft, your employer must have a significant amount of evidence. This often involves employers attempting to capture employees in the act of committing alleged crimes, including the following forms of evidence:
- Videos and/or still photos
- Paper trails that are indicative of or suggest financial wrongdoing
- Documents that are falsified
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
The point is that employers can get very crafty when it comes to attempting to prove alleged crimes of workplace theft.
What Qualifies as Workplace Theft?
Workplace theft can take many forms – some of which may surprise you. These can include:
- Stealing plain old office supplies, office furniture, or any other physical property
- Stealing merchandise from any source – the sales floor, a shipping truck, or the warehouse
- Embezzling, which amounts to activities like keeping fraudulent books, creating fake invoices (or altering actual invoices), falsifying expense records, and more
- Stealing from payroll by claiming to have worked hours not worked, by falsifying timesheets, by having someone else clock in and out in one's stead, and by not deducting work breaks
- Stealing information to benefit one’s self or a competitor of the employer
- Providing friends and/or family members with discounts that do not actually apply (often called sweethearting)
If you are accused of workplace theft, your employer may well have what he or she considers irrefutable evidence of the alleged crime in question. Do not be fooled by this tactic. Instead, protect your rights from the outset. These rights include:
- The right to your privacy
- The right to remain quiet on the matter
- The right to refuse a lie detector test
- The right to refuse a body search
These are all rights to which you should avail yourself.
What to Expect
If your employer accuses you of workplace theft, you can expect him or her to take a meeting with you to discuss the issue. Your supervisor and another employee whom you do not know will probably also be in attendance – in an effort to avoid the appearance of a biased or hostile proceeding. In this meeting, you can expect to be given the opportunity to tell your own side of things and to make your own statement in writing. You are well-advised to eschew these offers and remain quiet on the topic until you have obtained professional legal counsel.