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5 Tips on How to Handle Employee Theft

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 23, 2012 6:02 AM

If you think shoplifters are your biggest problem, think again. In North America, employee theft surpasses shoplifting and in amounts eight times the average stolen by shoplifters.

With statistics like these, at some point during your career, you will undoubtedly catch an employee stealing. When that day comes, do you know how you will react? If you don't, it's time to start thinking about it. To get you started, here's a basic plan for handling employee theft.

1. Review the evidence. If you accuse an employee of stealing and without adequate proof, you may end up with a wrongful termination suit on your hands. Make sure you have a solid case.

2. Terminate the employee. Before you get to this point, you need to verify that you have adhered to any disciplinary procedures as described in employment contracts, employee policies or collective bargaining agreements. If no such procedures exist and the individual is an at-will employee, you should be able to terminate immediately and without cause.

3. Call the police. Do not try to take care of employee theft on your own. Do not threaten the employee. Give your evidence to law enforcement and let them deal with it.

4. Don't deduct from the final paycheck. Most states limit what employers can and cannot deduct from an employee's paycheck. For this reason, it's best not to deduct any losses from the individual's final check. You can always recover your losses in small claims court.

5. Keep it to yourself. Unless there is a criminal conviction or civil judgment, it's best to keep the reason for termination to yourself. If you feel like you must share with other employees, be sure to only state verifiable facts and obvious opinions. Defamation suits can be expensive.

As you can see, employee theft is not only costly unto itself, but it can be costly if not handled properly. You need an employee theft plan and you need to stick to it.

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