Employee theft is when a member of staff steals, uses, or misuses company property without the express permission of their employer. Besides cash, employee theft can cover the stealing or misuse of supplies, products, personal data, or time. Employee theft applies to misuse of time if you are accused of altering timekeeping records to receive pay for hours you did not work.
Is Employee Theft a Fraud?
Some forms of employee theft are considered fraud. These include embezzlement, billing payroll and expense schemes, time theft, and supplying proprietary information to competitors.
What is the Punishment for Employee Theft?
If you are convicted of employee theft charges, at a minimum you will be expected to pay back the value of what you were accused of stealing at work. There will also be further penalties depending on the value of the stolen assets.
If the theft is valued at $1000 or less then the crime will usually be classed as petty theft. This is a misdemeanor crime punished with a small fine and jail time of up to a year. Larger sums are classed as grand theft, which is a felony that comes with more prison time and a larger fine. Serious grand theft felonies can result in a sentence of 20 years or more, but this would be very unusual for an employee theft case.
The Impact of False Accusations in the Workplace
Being falsely accused of stealing at work can create a lot of tension in your workplace. You can face a lot of stress from the threat of losing your job or your reputation, as well as the possibility of police involvement. Furthermore, your every move will be scrutinized, which is why it is vital to get expert advice from a criminal defense lawyer as soon as you are accused.
How to Respond to False Accusations at Work?
- Firstly, stay calm. Being falsely accused of stealing at work can be very stressful, but any angry or erratic behavior is not going to help your case. Everything you do at work could be brought up later, so try to carry on as normal.
- Secondly, cooperate with the investigation. The investigation will continue whether you are present or not, so it is better to have the chance to give your side of the story.
- At the same time, you should also seek legal advice. This will help you understand your rights during the investigation, what to expect from the process and how best to defend yourself in your particular situation. Defending against false accusations at work can be a complex process.
A theft crime attorney can help guide you through what to do if accused of stealing at work.
Can I Sue My Employer for False Accusations?
If an employer makes a false accusation of theft, this could damage your reputation, and you can sue them for defamation of character. There are a few basic requirements for defamation of character suit.
- Your employer must have made a false statement about you, and they must have published that statement. In other words, a third party who was not you or your employer must have seen or heard the false statement.
- You must be able to prove your employer made an untrue statement of fact, rather than expressing an opinion, and that they did so knowing their statement was untrue. For example, if an employer said they don’t think you care about your job, they could defend this as a statement of opinion. If they said you are incapable of performing your job, they would need to be able to prove that you are truly unable to do your job, or they have knowingly made a false accusation at work.
- The false accusation of theft your employer made must have caused injury to you, for example, the damage to your reputation made it difficult to get a new job.
- Finally, the statement your employer made must not be privileged. Privileged statements such as trial and deposition testimony are protected from defamation of character suits. In some states, statements made in references between employers are considered a protected statement as long as it was not made with malice.
Should You Sue A Company For Defamation?
If the requirements for a defamation suit are all true, you should consider suing for defamation. Doing so will not only help you recover from the financial impact of the accusation, but also clear your name of wrongdoing and enable you to move on.
How to Handle False Accusations At Work
If you have been falsely accused of employee theft, stay calm, cooperate and get expert legal advice to help you with defending against false accusations. False accusations can impact your career for years and clearing your name is important when you have a case for defamation of character.