Defamation of Character

Question:

To Whom It May Concern: My name is Victoria Camacho and I would like to request information to whether I have been wrongfully terminated from my job. I was an employee of Duane Reade since September 12, 2007 terminated on September 18, 2009. There was a situation that took place and ended with me being terminated from my job. On August 29, 2009, my scheduled hours to work was from 4:00 p.m. to 12 midnight as a Shift Leader. I was responsible to closing the store by myself with no manager to oversee me. I closed the store and had to report to work the next day at 7:00 am to 12:00 midnight. this is were it started. I worked on 23rd street and live in the Bronx by Baychester plaza. Due to the fact that it was late when closing the store and no manager to report to I borrowed $75.00 dollars from petty cash to insure my safety home. To returned the next day and do a shift from 7:00 am to 12:00 midnight. When i arrived to work the next day i submitted the receipts of the amounts that was charged by the cab to come and go to and from work. I put the receipts or posted them on the shelves above the computer where the manager was able to see it. At that point, no one mentioned anything to me. I was off from work for three days and when i went back to work on Thursday, 9/3/2009 still no one had mentioned anything to me and continued working until September 10th which I started my vacation and return to work September 19th a shift from 9:00 to 5:00 p.m. At around 2:00 p.m., I was called into the office and was confronted by Lost prevention who informed me that i was being suspended until further notice due to the fact that i did not notified anyone to use petty cash. At that point, i was dismissed and i called the Union local 338 i reported the situation and was told that they will get back to me. After 10 days later i received a phone call from the Union Rep stating that i was terminated. This was my first time ever using petty cash. According to the company they claim that they have proof that I have done this previous times before. The borrowing of petty cash was done in good faith i submitted receipts and returned the money. I want some counseling in reference to this situation which has affected me some thing terrible. I am suffering from depression, emotional distress and feeling powerless because i have been accused of stealing from a company that I worked for two years.

I would like to hear from someone that can help me understand if I have been wrongfully terminated.

On October 8th I was scheduled to have a meeting with human resources and the union rep on my request to try and explain my situation . In the meeting Basil Mcdonald my union rep did not represent me at all . As we sat in the meeting he asked a question to the fact of why are we here. I thought that was rather strange considering he was the one who scheduled the meeting. In the meeting what was suppose to get address did not get address on my union rep side nor from human resources . Sure as the copy of the other incidence of using petty cash. Which Basil Mcdonald was suppose to investigate which he never did .I left the meeting with the knowledge that I was suppose to get a phone call from him stating where or not I got my job back from the request of my district manager . On October 15th I received a phone call from the union rep that I was fired. That I was not getting my job back. Now its October 23.2009 and Duane Reade is fighting my unemployment. So now from this not only am I fired . I cannot collect unemployment.

Signed,

Depressed


Answer:

Dear Depressed:

Hello Victoria, thank you for the follow-up to the message you send a couple of days ago. It is very unfortunate that this has had such bad results for you, and I can imagine how sad and frustrated you are about it.

Our site does not provide legal advice and it may be that you will want to ask for a free consultation with an attorney about this matter. However, I can reflect some thoughts that might have been considered by Loss Prevention and HR at the business.

First, let me say that I don’t believe you were wrongfully terminated, based on any laws or labor regulations. It appears that you did not do anything criminal, but that is not a necessary element in a situation like this.

Here is the way they are probably looking at it, and probably the way the union is looking at it too: The petty cash belongs to the company as much as the items on the shelves or the cash in drawers. It isn’t for the use of employees for personal expenses, no matter how urgent the need might be, or if they intend to replace it. It is for company use only. Thus, for an employee to take it, no matter what the intention, creates a situation that has to be dealt with severely.

I know that sounds harsh on the part of the company, but losses from theft by employees is usually far more than shoplifting losses in many stores, so they have to send a clear message about it. It may be that petty cash has been missing in the past and they think you took it too. That’s the problem with taking it without permission–they assume if you did it then, you may have done it before.

Even if you paid it back this time, they may feel that other times it hasn’t been paid back. They don’t have to prove that you intended to keep it and not repay it, they only have to prove that you took it–and you admit that you did.

They may have also thought the way you handled the return was not done openly and with an intention to gain approval from your manager. Instead you put the receipts on a shelf, you did not give them to someone with authority for the petty cash fund. From your viewpoint everything was OK because you returned the money, but from their viewpoint you had ample opportunties to discuss the matter with your manager.

As unfair as it seems to you, since you know your thought processes and intentions, the business was justified in taking the action they did, and it does not appear that you were wrongfully terminated.

Again, I’m sorry about this and there is no doubt in my mind that you are an honest person who made an error in judgment about how to handle the late shift situation. I can understand your situation and can see why you thought using the petty cash was OK for that purpose. If your store had been a mom and pop type where you were like family, it probably would have worked out differently, but a larger business doesn’t usually operate that way.

Let me add this as well: Your managers may not have wanted to dismiss you and may have even gone to bat for you. But, the role of Loss Prevention is just as it says…to prevent loss. They have guidelines about what they recommend for dismissal and taking any cash without permission would probably fit those guidelines.

I say that so you don’t think everyone is viewing that you are a bad person. They are following the same guidelines almost any business would follow.

Your challenge now will be to move forward from this and draw on your inner strength to be confident and positive as you look for another job. This will be the time to take care of yourself mentally and physically, and to present yourself in the most professional way possible.

Soon this will be a bad memory, but it will be overshadowed by the good things you create in the future. You have learned from it and you will be able to share the experience one day with an employee you manage.

If you have a trusted friend, family member, faith-based group and club, or just a group you enjoy, you may be able to more quickly work through this sad situation and get back to where you want to be in every way.

Best wishes to you!

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.