How To Handle An Employee Who Has Been Stealing

Running a company or a business is no easy task. But the pleasure of being your own boss tops all the other risks you take as an owner. There are so many aspects of your business that need your attention on a regular basis. The advancement in technology has been a blessing to all industries. There are new tools and applications that come up each day to help the daily functions of businesses. But at the same time, it is highly impossible to run companies alone in today’s competitive world. You take help of your subordinates or employees to do the same more efficiently.

Employees are a great asset to your company when they believe in your goal and work for the company like it is their own. These are the employees you have the best employee relationships with. But this is not the case always, there will be times when some employee breaks the company codes. It’s very hard to judge a book by its cover, like a human from his face. There have been instances where the least expected of your employee commits a fraud that you never imagined. These situations get ugly and become a hindrance in relationships at work.

Employee theft is a huge problem. It could be a clerk stealing stationary or some employee manipulating the accounts. In most situations like these, you can find a trail if you are attentive. If you have doubts check your inventory frequently and note how frequently do people complain about lost things.

Understanding the Types of Employee Theft

Employee theft is a multifaceted issue that can manifest in various forms, each with its unique challenges and implications for a business. Understanding the spectrum of theft types is crucial for implementing effective prevention and response strategies. These types include:

  • Inventory Theft: This occurs when employees steal physical goods or inventory, which can range from office supplies to retail products. Such theft directly impacts a company’s bottom line and can disrupt inventory accuracy.
  • Service Theft: Employees might misuse company services for personal gain, such as exploiting discount codes or services meant for customers.
  • Data Theft: One of the most insidious forms, data theft involves the unauthorized access or transfer of company data, client information, or intellectual property. This can severely damage a company’s reputation and competitive edge.
  • Money Theft: This straightforward theft involves stealing cash directly from the company, whether through embezzlement, fraudulent expense claims, or manipulating financial records.
  • Payroll Theft: Occurs when employees manipulate timekeeping systems to get paid for hours not worked or when HR personnel create fictitious employees to divert funds.
  • Time Theft: Although not always considered a criminal act, time theft, where employees claim payment for hours not worked, can significantly affect productivity and operational costs.

Each type of theft requires a tailored approach to prevention, detection, and response. By recognizing these various forms, businesses can better safeguard their assets and foster a culture of integrity and accountability.

Before dealing with an employee who is stealing, keep these points in mind:

1. You should have a company policy

This should talk briefly about what points count for breaking company policy and their repercussions. As a business owner or manager make it a point to note that everyone is aware of those policies.

2. Select the right words

These situations are delicate, as well as tricky. You cannot directly accuse someone of stealing unless you are okay fighting a defamation case later. While exposing the employee make sure you are not getting your company into a litigation.

3. Data theft counts as theft too

Theft doesn’t necessarily have to be physical products always; they can also be data that the company has paid for.

4. Remain calm

It is easy to lose your composure in situations like these. But it is even more important to maintain your composure in situations like these. Your aggression will only spoil the situation and not help in resolving it. A calm mind will allow you to decide your next step.

Now you need to understand the logical steps to handle an employee who has been stealing from you:

(Once you are confident that the employee has been stealing data assets, take these steps.)

Make sure that the evidence you have is strong

Immaterial to what evidence who are basing your suspicion on, it should be very strong. It could be in the format of a video or a trustworthy witness. One can gather facts, study behavior, note timings and compile documents that show the discrepancy. These reports can be used during an investigation in the future for subsequent legal action. The evidence is supposed to be meaningful because they back up the accusation that is made. A weak evidence will alert the accused and he/she will never be caught.

Once confirmed, you should terminate the employee immediately

This is because the employee might do further harm to the company if he/she continues to have access. The mentality or physic of such a person of this nature leads to destructive activities. It is very important that to adhere to company policies while you terminate the employee. Look into all the issues that might need addressing before the termination. Things like contracts or bargaining agreements etc.

Notify the police

It is your decision to do or not do this. There are cases where companies terminate the employee with a signed undertaking or a fine amount. But you, as a business owner or manager can refer to your team and proceed to do the needful.

Do not tamper with the employee’s final paycheck-

It might be against the rules of your state. So be careful to check them, before making changes in the final paycheck.

Keep an eye on the employee till he/she is inside the office premises

Change all passwords and back up your computers

The employee who was just fired might want to seek revenge for the embarrassment. You need to be more careful right now. Change the passwords to computers and mailboxes he/she had access to. It is wise to back up computers because you don’t know what the accused had access to.

Look for the flaw or loophole in the system that led to this breach, rectify it in priority.

Dealing with situations of this nature is certainly tricky, but is usually rare. In situations like these, it becomes immensely difficult to manage the tasks that were earlier taken care by the accused employee. You can hire an efficient freelancer to take charge till you find someone to take up the role.

Legal Considerations and Employee Rights

When confronting an employee suspected of theft, it’s imperative to navigate the legal landscape with caution to avoid potential litigation. Key considerations include:

  • Summary Dismissal: Theft is generally grounds for summary dismissal, which means terminating an employee without notice or payment in lieu of notice. However, this action must be supported by solid evidence and follow a fair disciplinary process to withstand legal scrutiny.
  • Data Breach Laws: In cases of data theft, employers must comply with state and federal data breach laws, which may require notifying affected individuals and taking steps to mitigate the damage.
  • Employee Rights: Throughout the investigation and disciplinary process, it’s crucial to respect the accused employee’s rights. This includes the right to be heard, the right to representation (in unionized workplaces), and the right to a fair and unbiased investigation.

Adhering to these legal principles not only protects the business from potential lawsuits but also upholds the integrity of the process and the dignity of all involved parties.

Preventing Future Incidents of Employee Theft

Prevention is the most effective strategy against employee theft. Implementing a multifaceted approach can significantly reduce the risk of theft occurring. Key preventive measures include:

  • Shared Responsibilities: Avoid giving one employee too much control over any area, especially those involving financial transactions or sensitive data.
  • Regular Audits: Conducting random and scheduled audits can deter theft and identify vulnerabilities.
  • Clear Anti-Theft Policies: Having a well-communicated policy that outlines the consequences of theft is essential.
  • Employee Training: Educate employees on the importance of security protocols and the ethical handling of company assets.
  • Financial Wellness Programs: Offering support for employees facing financial difficulties can address one of the root causes of theft.

By fostering an environment of transparency, accountability, and support, businesses can significantly mitigate the risk of employee theft.

Download the eBook and learn how to use neuroscience to attract the right talent, retain high-performing employees and foster collaborative teams.

Image via