What should done about employees stealing in the workplace?

Q: I think that an employee may be stealing from my company. I called the Police but they said they needed more proof before they could get involved. They suggested that I contact a private investigation company. How can I find out what’s going on when I am not there to watch?

A: Even though a case may be criminal in nature – such as in the case of an employee stealing, with all of the known and pressing problems that the Police have to handle on a daily basis, they usually do not have the manpower to act on a “hunch” or suspicion.

If it was a case of suspected drug trafficking or gang activity, they probably would be able to dispatch some undercover units since there would be a very real risk of personal injury and/or serious felonies being committed.

When it comes to the private sector, clients really need to take the matter into their own hands in the majority of cases. By “their own hands”, I don’t mean they need to investigate it themselves, but they need to hire a professional investigator with the training, skills, experience and license to deal with the matter.

A carefully chosen private security firm will be able to sit down and advise them on their options. After the initial meeting they should have a good idea of: 1) the costs involved, 2) the time it will take to resolve the matter and 3) how best to deal with their findings – termination of employee, filing criminal charges, initiating a civil suit.

Some time ago we were approached with an identical problem facing a local business owner. He believed one of his senior managers to be stealing materials from the warehouse and selling it to other individuals. The owner had heard stories circulating about the manager’s dishonesty but chose to disregard it for many years. We advised him that we would use different investigators and vehicles to follow the manager around and video tape him where he went and document the addresses.

From day one, our investigators had discovered that the manager would load up his truck with building materials from the warehouse and head out without telling anyone where he was going. Once he arrived at a location, our investigator would call the client and tell him the address while another investigator video taped the transaction at the site. Nearly all of the time – at least 90% of the time, the manager would go to a site that was not one of the employer’s sites. He was taped handing over stolen materials on several occassions. Other times he would have unauthorized persons in his company truck. If they had been hurt in an accident, they most likley would have sued the business owner for having been allowed to be carried in the vehicle.

After two weeks, we had compiled enough information on the manager to show that he was involved in a company on the side with members of his family that were known to the employer upon viewing the video. Just on one transaction alone, we discovered that the employee had managed to steal a $45,000.00 dollar contract that should have been handled by his employer’s company. A conservative estimate of the employee’s thieving over the years amounted to in excess of $1,000,000.00.

Even though our client’s main goal at the beginning of the investigation was to fire the manager if he turned out to be a thief, he was so disturbed by what he discovered that he asked us to work with the authorities to prosecute him. Our investigators took the final report with their findings along with the video to the prosecutor and in a couple of short weeks the Police had obtained warrants for grand larceny and had brought the manager to trial as a defendant. Based on the evidence obtained by our investigators, he plead guilty and received a jail sentence.

Not all clients will want to go to that extent and many have no intentions of prosecuting an employee. It is still a good idea to pursue a dishonest employee and gather evidence that they are stealing or conducting illegal activities on the company property. The benefits of such an investigation are many. If an employee is conducting an illegal activity such as using or trafficking in drugs, they may be directly responsible for an accident in the work place that could not only injure themselves but an innocent co-worker.

Since the employer has a duty to provide a safe work place for his/her employees, looking the other way or hoping that nothing happens could lead to a devastating law suit that might put the owner out of business and lead to the loss of jobs for every one there. If the situation persists and the local police get to hear about the problem, then they will take the matter into their own hands.

Screeching car loads of Police officers jumping out in front of your building with blue lights flashing and sirens blazing will not leave a good impression on your clients. Nor will seeing staff being led out in handcuffs make them feel confident about doing business with you in the future.

It would be far better to have the matter dealt with by a private company who could send in an undercover investigator to gather evidence and if it turned out that there was such illegal activity going on, those involved could be given the option of resigning or having the matter turned over to the police. It has been our experience that they prefer the option of walking away from their job rather than being driven away in the back of a Police cruiser.

One should also consider some of the other benefits involving the uncovering of employee problems and dealing with them in a firm manner. In the case of the thieving manager, we found out from talking with and interviewing other staff members that he had actually boasted about some of the things that he was doing. He became so conceited that others were beginning to fear him or worse still, admire him for his actions.

When it finally became known that the owner had hired investigators to find out the truth and then had personal protection specialists escort the disgraced manager off of the property, the other employees realized that the owner meant business. There was little chance that anyone there would be imitating the convicted felon any time soon. The owner could finally concentrate on making the company profitable and making sure that his employees had a stable future.

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