Theft at work? What do I do?
We have a serious situation of theft at work and our management team doesn’t agree on how to handle it. Our maintenance manager found an expensive tool (that has been missing from the company) at the local pawn shop. For his records, the pawnshop proprietor takes pictures of everyone with the item they want to pawn. When our manager told the proprietor that the tool belonged to the company, the proprietor shared the picture with our manager. The person who pawned the tool is an employee. The maintenance manager wants to call the police and have the employee arrested for theft. The owner wants to fire him and not say why. The owner says we are an at-will state and he does not have to give a reason to terminate an employee. I am concerned about what I tell, or don’t tell, the Employment Security Office and future reference checks, and how it will affect other employees if the facts get out (and around here, they will)! What should I do?
Looking ahead to problems!
Dear Looking Ahead,
You do have a dilemma and you should be concerned. Do you have a policy in your handbook about theft at work or intentional damage to company property? If so, you have procedures and a policy to follow. If the handbook is not clear about the consequences of policy violation, then I suggest you call your employment attorney to help you avoid a potential charge of wrongful discharge or future problems with reference requests.
Keep in mind that in some states it is illegal not to give honest and complete reasons for termination to the Employment Security Division. Also, if you do not go the arrest route, you will need to be very careful when giving future references. There are times when the situation is too serious not to seek legal advice and this is one of them!
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