Most people – according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 75% of employees — have taken something from work. People often justify it by saying they aren’t paid enough or the company can afford it. It might be a binder or other “school supplies,” promotional items meant for clients, merchandise from a store or warehouse or even cash.
Other types of theft don’t involve physical items, but they can be far more valuable. Taking proprietary information (from customer data to trade secrets) – especially if can be used to harm a company – is very serious. Buying personal items using a company credit card or expensing a purchase or meal that wasn’t work-related are also forms of stealing that may be classified as fraud.
Most people realize that if they’re caught taking anything more than a random office supply, they’ll likely lose their job. Theft is often one of those workplace offenses for which there’s no second chance or “performance improvement plan.”
Who’s most likely to face criminal consequences?
What they often don’t realize is that they can be arrested and charged as well. It often depends on whether a person took something they can return or at least reimburse their employer for. An employer can, however, choose to report the theft to the police and press charges.
This is more likely if the theft involved some kind of fraud that’s going to cost money to fix – like theft of confidential information. However, if a business owner has had enough of people stealing or just plain doesn’t like someone, they may choose to make an example out of them.
This doesn’t always occur when an employee is terminated. The employer may notify the authorities later. Of course, all they can do is accuse them and present evidence. As with any alleged offense, a person is considered innocent until proven guilty. If that person has already confessed to their employer (especially if they signed something admitting their guilt), that makes prosecution easier.
Fines and jail time
In Colorado, theft of anything valued between $50 and $2,000 is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and jail time. Theft of $2,000 and above is a felony, with consequences increasing with the value of the stolen items.
If you’ve been accused of theft from the workplace or related to your job, it’s wise to seek legal guidance even if your employer hasn’t mentioned going to the authorities. It’s never too early to start protecting your rights.