Accusation of theft at work

Question:

Money has been going missing at my workplace for several months and yesterday I was fired because I am one of the many people who have the combination to the safe. There is no evidence to accuse me and my employer is withholding my pay from last week and has threatened that if I “cause trouble for him, he’ll get the police involved”. What should I do from here?

Signed,

Worried


Answer:

Dear Worried:

The fact that your employer doesn’t want to make a police report makes me wonder about his or her involvement with this! It certainly points out that he or she realizes there is no way to prove who did it.

If that is the case, I feel badly for your employer about losing the money. But, if it’s been going on for awhile, he should have done something about it sooner. He can fire you and others, but he doesn’t have the right to keep your money if your salary is paid after you work, rather than before you’ve worked.

If you have tried to reason with your employer but that has not worked, you have three options:

1. Check with your state’s department of Labor to find out your rights under the laws of your state about refusing to pay or withholding paychecks. Most states have laws governing the kind of situation you describe. Without laws about it, it would be too easy for unscrupulous employers to claim a need to keep the paycheck. That is what happened in this case.

2. Another option is to file a claim with the Small Claims Court in your county, to get your salary back. (The first option is better.) 3. Talk to an attorney on a free consultation basis to find out what he or she would charge you to write a letter of warning to your employer, demanding your money, or for some other action. Find out what you can do without an attorney first. It sounds as though you work for a small business with only your employer to decide about this issue. If your company is large enough to have someone higher than your boss, you should talk to them about this and find out the reasoning for the actions being taken. As for calling the police, we are not a legal resource and cannot provide you with legal advice. But, it would seem if there is no evidence linking you with the crime, the police will have no reason to charge you or anyone else specifcally–even if they think someone there did it.

It seems logical that you can tell the police what you know about who had access to the money, and answer similar questions. HOWEVER, the moment they read or say your Miranda rights (that you have the right to remain silient and you have the right to have an attorney present before you begin talking to them) take advantage of your rights and do not talk to them without an attorney present. Or, if you cannot afford an attorney, ask them if you can have an attorney appointed for you.

It doesn’t sound like it will come to that, because it sounds as though your employer knows he or has nothing to go on. If there was any proof the police would have been called already!

Please contact the Department of Labor in your state and see what they suggest for this matter. Or, if that doesn’t work, contact an attorney. If other employees are involved, perhaps all of you should go together to your state Labor Department, to find out what to do.

Best wishes with this matter. I’m sure it’s very upsetting! If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.