Can I Be Fired Without Proof Of Theft?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accusation of theft:

I have been accused of theft, but apart from one person saying they saw me with the item there is no proof. If there was proof the police would surely have been involved. Can I be dismissed without proof, only one person’s word against mine?

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

In most cases an employer can dismiss someone for many reasons or no reason, whether or not there is actual proof of wrongdoing. Often a situation like this comes down to who is the most credible and if there have been other situations of concern.Sometimes one event like this is just a final reason to do what managers have considered doing for other reasons. The police might not be called if there is no proof or no desire to press charges, but the accusation is enough to justify dismissal in the minds of managers.

If you did nothing wrong (and I’ll trust that you are telling the truth about that), perhaps you can point out your work history to show that you have always been diligent and have never given any indication of wrongdoing. Or, perhaps there is some other way you can show it isn’t likely you took the item. Or, if nothing else, you can simply deny it adamantly, since they apparently can’t prove it, and point out reasons why the witness would lie about it, if there are reasons. (Prior conflict, wanting to deflect blame, etc.)

Make sure your manager knows how concerned you are and how you wish you had proof of your innocence against unproven accusations of this type. Don’t be angry about it when you talk. Instead, show concern and a desire for your manager to know that you have integrity and would not steal. I’m sorry this has happened and I’m sure it’s frustrating to try to defend yourself about something you didn’t do. I’m hoping your work history and good relationships will be able to help you convince your managers that it wouldn’t be at all like you to take anything. Best wishes to you with this matter. 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.