What To Do When An Employee Steals

Jim Luff
Posted on September 7, 2016

Types of Thefts
Employees in our industry find many ways to steal. It can be as simple as taking a ream of paper to stealing cash, gas, or even clients. You have to be careful to gather evidence supporting your claim, or your employee could file a defamation suit against you. Defamation of character includes slander which is when a person’s reputation or good name is damaged as a result of oral statements. It also includes libel that occurs when false statements about a person are written.

The Investigation
Before you decide to call law enforcement, you should investigate internally any alleged or suspected theft that includes dates, incidents, witnesses, reasoning, and all other factors documented to present to law enforcement if you take that route. Consider starting your investigation with writing down who, what, when, where, why and how. Investigate each of the components before deciding on an action.

Don’t Touch The Paycheck
Although you might prove through documented evidence a driver has stolen fuel using your company credit card, do not be tempted to deduct the value from their final paycheck. This is illegal. Although you may be due the money, federal law dictates you cannot withhold any amount other than withholding taxes from an employee’s paycheck without a written agreement. The proper venue for retrieving your money is in a courtroom where a judge will order the employee to pay restitution if the court determines the employee is guilty.

Deciding To Call Law Enforcement
If your thorough investigation confirms a theft occurred, you must decide whether to report it to law enforcement. On one hand, employees in the company will know you mean business if they rip you off. On the other hand, you may be required to go to court and testify against your employee. Law enforcement will investigate as well, and require you to provide documents, meet with investigators, and prove your allegation before they decide whether to turn the case over to the District Attorney. The D.A. will then decide whether to press charges against the employee. This will take a lot of time. Is the purpose in reporting it to the police to get restitution? Do you think the employee will be capable of the restitution? Is the amount significant enough to spend the time pursuing prosecution? Only you can decide.

Stealing Clients
This is an unfortunate situation that often happens in this industry. A chauffeur or driver either leaves or starts a company, and then solicits your clients to jump ship as well. Even the best written non-compete agreements are difficult to enforce, and the cost to drag your former employee into court along with clients who left will cost you thousands of dollars in court and attorney fees. If you lose, you could be ordered to pay the cost of defense for the former employee. It is a risky gamble.

Sending A Message
Whether you report the theft or dismiss the employee, you should tell your staff about it and the results. This sends a message that theft will not be tolerated and you monitor the actions of employees.

Smooth Operations provides a broad range of information focused on new ideas and approaches in management, human resources, customer service, marketing, networking and technology. Have something to share or would like covered? You can reach LCT contributing editor and California operator Jim Luff at [email protected]

Related Topics: employee issues, employee management, How To, human resources, Jim Luff, lawsuits, security, smooth operations

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Comments ( 1 )
  • Maurice Brewster

     | about 4 years ago

    Great article. Most of the points, especially in California, ring true. We had an employee arrested for stealing fuel. It sent a strong message within our company, that this type of behavior is not only inappropriate, but will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

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