Expert Advice: What to Do When an Employee Is Caught Stealing

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This story appears in the December 2014 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Q: How do I fire an employee who was caught stealing?

A: Joyce Margulies, a Memphis, Tenn.-based attorney and chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Labor and Employment Law, says entrepreneurs need to do their due diligence before firing anyone, especially if it is an employee of long standing. She recommends these steps.

1.  Investigate: Conduct the necessary detective work, including interviewing the accused. “In a case of termination,” Margulies says, “the decision-maker should not rely on the reports of others.”

2.  Substantiate: Make sure your company has enforced its rules consistently. “Have there been times when other employees were not terminated for that offense, and why?” Margulies asks. 

3.  Document: Verify the employee’s work record and document any evidence of the crime. Margulies says this is where the severity of the violation comes into play, even for longtime employees. When it comes to cause for dismissal, she says, “theft is a little bit easier than if they were falling asleep on the job.” 

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