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Dishonesty and Theft

We have a non-exempt employee who is already on a final (forever) warning for falsifying their timesheet. Now three months later we were informed by another employee that this same employee is taking supplies for her own use. On our surveillance tape, we have clear evidence of her taking a brand new six pack of paper towels to her car. In discussing the incident with her, she has no reasonable explanation for taking the supplies and, in fact, denied it at first. She finally admitted to taking them after we told her about the surveillance tape. We spend a significant amount of money on paper towels every month for use by our non-profit animal shelter. We placed the employee on suspension and have written up a recommendation for termination for our Board of Directors but several directors want to just place her on another warning as they feel that her length of service (3 years) and other personal attributes should warrant another chance. The issue seems to focus on what was taken was “only paper towels.” I have tried to explain the precedent we would be setting, given our employee booklet explains both timesheet falsification and theft as major infractions and misconduct subject to immediate termination. We have reviewed the booklet recently with all employees including this employee and we have a signed acknowledgement. Am I missing something? Is there a different way to look at theft? FYI She also sent a letter admitting to and apologizing for the theft.

Not terminating an employee with a pattern of subordinate behavior, a blatant disregard for company policy, and poor morals sends a clear message to your other staff and it’s not a good one. By keeping this employee you’re telling everyone else that employee policies don’t need to be followed and they can act in any manner they wish without consequences. The threat of consequences for violating a policy is meaningless unless you’re willing to act upon them.

Many companies adopt a zero tolerance policy for theft. Whether an employee steals paper towels, printer paper or money from the company, theft is theft. Deciding which things employees are “allowed” to steal versus which things constitute a willful violation of company policy sets the company up for a whole lot of gray area to consider.

Now, it’s very common for companies to overlook employees taking pens, pieces of paper or some sheets of paper towels but an entire six pack of paper towels is a clear intent to steal and demonstrates low morals/ethics. Combine this theft with a past history of timecard fraud, then the employee has shown an obvious pattern of behavior. Past behavior often shows future behavior. She will most likely commit theft again.

It appears progressive discipline has been used so it’s best to terminate the employee now.

Explain your concerns to the board again. Note the likelihood of the employee committing similar acts of theft in the future. Explain that even though the employee has positive traits, the inability to trust her will significantly impact her work since she is not reliable. Further, keeping her on staff will be unproductive since managers will have to spend more time watching her and other employees will assume the disciplinary process is meaningless. Lastly, inform the board that a lack of action is setting a precedent. In the future, other employees will expect the same leniency that has been awarded to this employee. If such leniency is not provided, employees may become disgruntled. The potential for a discrimination claim increases since employees are not being treated fairly. Good Luck!

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 27th, 2015 at 9:02 pm and is filed under
Workplace Management.
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