Employee theft is something that most small business owners and employers would probably not want to think about, but maybe should. What would you do if a trusted team member stole from your business? What would be the right course of action to take? Considering how substantial the losses from employee theft can be for small and midsize companies—a median loss of nearly $290,000 in 2016—you may want to take immediate action if you think an employee is stealing from your organization. However, missteps and hasty actions in response to theft accusations can be disruptive to your workplace and potentially lead to lawsuits, aggravating an already challenging situation. If you suspect an employee of theft, take a deep breath, compile evidence that can back up your claims, and follow the tips listed below.
Detecting and proving workplace theft can be difficult, but being aware of common signs of these acts can help you determine if there’s merit to your suspicions. Missing inventory, disappearing equipment, payroll and expense inconsistencies, depleted cash, undue travel expenses, and a mysterious drop in your profits could indicate theft. Suspicious employee behaviors may include working late and putting in extra hours but never taking time off from work. While you may think employees who are always in are ideal compared to someone who always calls out, these individuals could be perpetrators of employee theft.
If you’ve equipped your workplace with surveillance cameras or other security systems, you could have security personnel review any recordings and surveillance videos. Security cameras have features that make them capable of seeing what guards and staff may be unable to see. For instance, a high-tech dome camera has a vari-focal camera lens that monitors at wide angles, allowing the camera to record your premises at various angles and considerable distances. This security camera has a night vision feature that makes it practical for indoor and outdoor use. Ultimately, this vandal-resistant security camera can produce high-resolution video, providing you with evidence of unusual events if they happen.
Jumping to conclusions about who may be responsible for employee theft and making false accusations could be grounds for a defamation suit. If you firmly believe an employee stole from your organization, a thorough investigation in which you gather evidence for proving your case can be necessary. In such situations, it’s crucial to consult an attorney for legal guidance.
Suppose your suspicions are correct and you identify the wrongdoer. In that case, it’s up to you to determine a fitting punishment and present it and the evidence to the employee in a confidential meeting. For instance, termination may be the only option for employees who committed theft or other fraudulent acts with high dollar values. In contrast, written warnings, probations, or restitution may suffice for more minor incidents. Whether you choose to also report the situation to law enforcement and press charges against your employee, it’s crucial to follow fair employee dismissal policies if you decide on termination.
The ordeal of suspecting an employee of theft may prompt you to take measures of preventing workplace theft and misconduct more seriously. You can avoid employee theft by creating procedures and policies related to fraud, training employees on these policies, and using more caution in the recruiting process. When recruiting, require and validate references for applicants and ask them to complete background checks. In some cases, traditional methods of background reports may not produce complete information. A reputable online people search tool can help you uncover accurate, unbiased information about people that typical background checkers may not report. Online people searches can benefit you professionally and personally, providing you with a person’s first name, last name, and contact information such as email addresses and cell phone numbers. A people search with the right online resource can take it a step further, giving you information regarding an individual’s public records, court records, criminal records, criminal history, and more.
Ultimately, implementing an informed yet fair vetting process can help you avoid making a poor hiring decision that could contribute to employee theft.