It’s a worst-case scenario for many employers, and one that many don’t think they’ll ever face until they do: the possibility that an employee is stealing from your company. Unfortunately, this happens more than you might imagine, especially in today’s world, where things like data theft are just as prevalent as stealing physical assets.
How you handle this kind of situation is important. For one thing, there are various types of employee theft – and suspicion alone isn’t enough to take action against the employee. Read on to learn more about employee theft, what to do if you suspect it (or it’s proven), and how to prevent the problem entirely.
What might employee theft look like?
There are various types of employee theft. One of the most common is monetary theft, whether it’s an employee literally taking bills from a cash register, expensing things inappropriately, or fraudulently using a corporate credit card. There is also inventory theft, in which an employee steals workplace supplies or equipment.
Intellectual property theft is another possibility. And data theft is more and more common today – it’s possible for employees to steal sensitive personnel information about other employees or clients, proprietary data regarding processes or accounts, etc. For many companies, this kind of theft can be even more dangerous and problematic than money or raw assets being stolen.
What steps should you take if you suspect theft?
So, you suspect an employee has been stealing from your company. What happens now?
Here are four steps to follow if you suspect employee theft:
#1: Gather the facts. The most important thing is that you don’t jump to action right away. It’s important that you go about the process carefully. Gather all the facts you can – compile documentation, review computer files and financial records, check email chains, source video feeds if the theft occurred in a physical space covered by cameras. This information will be key for putting together your case. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this by yourself, hire an investigator or seek the help of an investigative attorney.
#2: Interview witnesses. If there were any potential witnesses to the theft, it’s important that you talk to them. Conduct interviews and document these conversations carefully.
#3: Document all steps. Keep separate documentation of every step you take in the investigative process. Leaving something out or missing important details here can make all the difference between a successful case and one that can’t legally prove the theft occurred.
#4: Speak with your legal counsel. It’s always wise to speak to your company attorney before, during, and throughout a case of potential theft. Your legal counsel can advise you on the proper policies and procedures to follow in this kind of situation.
What if the theft is proven? What next?
If you have insurance that covers employee theft, you’ll need to file a police report. Of course, it will be up to your discretion whether you want to take legal action; consult your legal counsel.
In most cases, you’ll want to terminate the employee in question as soon as possible. Make sure to terminate them in a way that follows your company policy to the letter, and be sure to pay attention to any issues like contracts, collective bargaining agreements, union representatives, etc.
A few final tips: Don’t deduct any wages from the employee’s final paycheck, as there may be state regulations governing this. Also, don’t discuss the situation with any other employees of the company or outside individuals except your company counsel. Revealing confidential information could tarnish the credibility of the investigation.
Tips for Preventing Employee Theft Issues
It goes without saying that preventing employee theft in the first place is far preferable to dealing with it after the fact. Having a company policy that addresses workplace stealing is key – make sure your policy covers the topic itself and the repercussions for employees if they steal, and make sure that all employees are well aware of this policy. It’s also important to make all employees aware that if they know of another employee’s fraudulent activities and fail to report it, they could also be subject to disciplinary action.
The Best Option: Avoid the Problem with Careful Screening
Another key part of preventing employee theft is hiring the right people the first time. Minimize your company’s risk by conducting thorough, accurate background checks with the help of Metrodata Services. We’re the leading pre-employment screening company in Buffalo, NY and offer services that range from criminal record searches, license and certification verifications, standard background checks, and beyond.
Contact our team to learn more about what we offer and how we help you minimize the likelihood of employee theft and other company risks.