Accused of Theft

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accused of stealing:

I was recently suspended under the assumption that I stole a watch from my work. My co-worker has made a statement to manager in which she has implicated me as the person responsible for the theft. Obviously, I didn’t take it but now I have someone saying that they saw me take it, I may loose my job, and I may be arrested for this. I’m not to sure what to do other than fight it. What would be my best way to go about things? Isn’t basically what she said just hearsay? There is no physical proof that I took the watch, no cameras, just her statement. What do you think I should do?

Signed, What Next?

Dear What Next?:

A reliable witness is often used as the basis for legal and civil actions. To be considered reliable means that she would have to have seen you take the watch, or has some other way to know you have it. (Like, seeing it in your backpack or seeing you put it in your pocket, or hearing your talk about it to someone.) It would also require that she have no personal bias against you, and that she is more likely than not, to be telling the truth. So, you may want to consider WHY she would say you took the watch. Does she sincerely think you did, or has she had a conflict with you and this is a way to get even?

Your history with her might answer those questions. You say, “Now I have someone saying that they saw me take it.” I don’t know if you mean your co-worker is the someone, or if there is someone, in addition to your co-worker, who claims to have seen you take it. That would be much more serious to your employer and the police.If the police become involved, and you think you are going to be charged with a crime, you may want to get an attorney to ensure that your rights are protected, and that you don’t inadvertently say something that could make you sound guilty. However, even if the police are involved, that doesn’t mean you are going to be charged with a crime. They may simply want to talk to everyone you has any part at all in the situation. Sadly, whether or not a charge is filed by the police, your organization can probably dismiss you, based only on the word of a co-worker, if they feel they have good reason to believe the co-worker. I hope you have a good relationship with your boss, and have established yourself as an honest person.

Hopefully that will help, until the truth is known. In the meantime, if you have witnesses to support you, or to show that the co-worker might not be telling the truth, get those names together. I can imagine how frightening and frustrating this is. Best wishes as you respond to it. 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.