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Fire Proof A thorough investigation is the only way to build a case against problem employees.

By Steven C. Bahls

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Rumors are flying. Everyone in the office is talking about afellow employee stealing supplies, taking drugs or using officecomputers to run a porn Web site. Time to check it out and takeaction.

But not too fast. "Before disciplining anyone formisconduct, conduct a full and fair investigation," says JeffPasek, an attorney specializing in employment law with CozenO'Connor in Philadelphia. That way, you'll have anexcellent defense if you end up in court. The opposite is alsotrue: A jury hearing that you fired someone after false accusationsand a slapdash investigation may be more sympathetic to theex-employee.

In one case, food products were disappearing from aretailer's warehouse, and a security guard reported seeing asupervisor eat a bag of chips from the inventory. The retailerpromptly fired the supervisor, without talking with her or checkingwith other witnesses. Worse, when gossip started spreading,employees were told the woman had been fired for stealing.

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