Employee theft encompasses much more than the white collar crimes that you may hear about on the news, such as embezzlement. Employees take unlawfully from their employers in many circumstances, including:
- Stealing office supplies or merchandise;
- Forging or hiding receipts;
- Overbilling expenses;
- Falsifying time records by improperly reporting sick leave and vacation; and
- Taking intellectual property and information.
It is not illegal for your employer to suspect, accuse, or fire you based on a suspicion of theft, since theft is considered a good cause for the purposes of firing. However, a false and unwarranted charge may allow you to sue your employer for damages, especially for wrongful discharge if you have been fired or defamation.
As an employer, you must be proactive on the issue of employee theft. Several ways employers can protect themselves are by:
- Performing background checks on employees;
- Removing the opportunity to take from the company (for example, schedule random employee auditing);
- Developing clear, reliable, and comprehensive company policies (such information may be included in an employee handbook);
- Rewarding employees for reporting theft; and
- Investigating any incidents of potential theft carefully and pay attention to facts, since accusations of theft are not taken lightly by employers or employees.
If you are suspected of theft in the workplace, a criminal defense lawyer will be able to discuss with you the repercussions of such an accusation and possible courses of action. Employment attorneys can also be of assistance to employers who mistrust certain employee actions and need help to implement safeguard policies.