What to do if you Suspect that an Employee is Stealing from your Company
It’s a situation that no business owner wants to be faced with. However, it is one that happens more often than you may realize. The situation is employee theft. Employee theft costs businesses across North America millions of dollars each year. In fact, many studies show that employee theft is a bigger cause of retail shrink than shoplifting.
So what can you do if you suspect an employee is stealing?
Every situation is different, but the first thing that you need to do is to conduct an investigation to ensure that your suspicions are correct. Not only will you not want to wrongly accuse an employee of theft, but you will also want to collect evidence that will prove that the theft took place.
- Look at video surveillance footage if you have it.
- Check financial records.
Remember, theft isn’t always physical theft of money or property. It can also be theft by falsifying documents or modifying expense claims. During your investigation, keep an eye out for any evidence that could be used to prove that an employee is stealing. Document all steps that you take during the investigation phase and throughout the entire process. Having strong documentation is important.
When you think you have sufficient evidence, you will need to confront the employee. While you may be angry and want to scream, it’s best to review the evidence carefully and take steps to approach the employee correctly. You may want to get legal advice from a professional before proceeding.
Approach the employee and discuss the matter in a private meeting. Again, you may be tempted to call him or her out in front of everyone, but it’s often safer to meet with the employee in private. If you think the employee will react negatively, have a second person present just in case. Show the employee the evidence that you have gathered and ask for an explanation. Be careful not to accuse the employee of theft outright, as this can have legal consequences. Instead, show him or her your evidence and ask something like “What’s going on here?”
Before your meeting, you will need to have decided on this employee’s future with the company. Depending on the employee and the nature of the crime, you may choose to issue a warning, place the employee on probation or request repayment for the stolen goods. You may also choose to terminate the person’s employment. If this is the case, follow your company’s standard procedures for terminating an employee. This likely involves escorting the employee to pick up his or her personal items and/or escorting him or her from the building.
Depending on the type of theft and the amount of theft, you may want to file a police report as well. Filing a report gives you an additional type of documentation that you may need to justify your decision to terminate the employee.
Preventing Employee Theft
You can reduce the likelihood of employee theft by taking steps to protect yourself and your company. Installing physical security solutions such as locked cabinets and the use of security gates will make it significantly less likely that an employee will be able to steal from your stock room, server room or supply room. Only employees who are required to access these areas should be given the necessary keys. This drastically cuts down on opportunities for employee theft.
Having video surveillance cameras in your location can provide you with evidence and possibly deter an employee from stealing. By taking appropriate steps to protect your property, you can reduce the chances of having to deal with employee theft.