Most employers are prone to a knee-jerk reaction when presented with evidence an employee is stealing from their business. They move quickly to terminate the suspected thief and stop the financial blood loss from their business. While this may immediately address the problem, it is short sighted and ultimately may be more costly to the business.
A more reasoned approach is to immediately remove the employee from the workplace. Short-term administrative leave will buy valuable time to assess the next strategic move. First, determine if there are any provisions in your employee handbook or policy manual which may apply. And if the workplace is unionized, a review of the collective bargaining agreement is necessary.
While many businesses may opt not to prosecute internal theft, a criminal investigation into the theft should at least be considered. A few factors to be evaluated include the amount of the theft, possible media coverage, and the impact on employee morale in your workplace. If you have insurance coverage, your policy may require an attempt to prosecute in order to make a claim. Discussions with local law enforcement and the prosecuting authority can also help in making a decision whether to criminally prosecute a workplace thief.
When the decision to prosecute has been ruled out, it may be time to conduct an employment investigation. Even if you have the smoking gun and the thief on tape stealing from your business, an investigation is still necessary to establish the facts. If the employee is a member of a union, they may have grievance rights to a hearing to challenge termination from employment. A Veteran has a statutory right in Minnesota to challenge termination from employment at a Veteran’s hearing.
An employee may also file for unemployment benefits and has the right to a hearing if benefits are denied. Additionally, a terminated employee may take the offensive and file a claim alleging discrimination or slander. Without a timely fact-finding investigation, it would be extremely difficult to meet the burden of proof necessary to defend your business in any type of post-termination appeal hearing.
Taking your time and being thorough can save your business money in the long run.