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 , says entrepreneurs need to do their 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 . 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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