False Accusations About Theft

Question:

What recourse does an employee have when a co-worker makes false accusations to Management/Human Resources that they stole money from them?

Signed,

Falsely accused


Answer:

Dear Falsely accused:

In any situation where someone is falsely accused of anything, the easiest way to handle it is to keep a low profile and let the facts speak for themselves. In a criminal case, if the police are involved and charges are actually filed against an individual, the accused person should immediately get an attorney. If they police aren’t involved, the accused person should simply answer any questions truthfully. If the accuser only has a suspicion, but no evidence, witnesses, or anything else clearly indicating one person as the culprit, HR will not want to accuse anyone of it, and it will likely be an Unsolved Mystery.

In either case, the employee should put together any information or evidence he or she has to provide a defense. If it seems the co-worker purposely tried to discredit the accused employee, the employee should put together a memo or packet of material showing why that is the situation. The accused person could then ask HR to investigate the matter, as a way to stop the co-worker from continuing to do such things.

If the reputation of the accused person suffers dramatically in some way–not just rumors, but loss of a position or money–then, the accused person may want to check with an attorney about recourse against the individual who started the accusation, and against the organization, if they didn’t do a good job of investigating. Hopefully it won’t come to that! Once things get to that stage, they become very unpleasant and expensive for everyone. It may be though, that the co-worker sincerely thinks the accused person took the money. In that case, they can hardly be blamed for letting HR know about it. So, understanding the background of it all, will be important.

If money was stolen, someone had to have taken it. Certainly management will want to know who that was–and other employees will want to know as well. So, a complete investigation SHOULD be done. The problem will be if no money was stolen at all. It’s very difficult to prove the lack of a crime in cases like that–unless there is some very clear evidence that the co-worker made up everything. Being honest and completely open about the situation will likely be the best approach. A good reputation and a good history at work may put an end to the accusations. After that, management may be open to following up to take action against someone who would knowingly accuse someone falsely.

Best wishes in this matter.

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.