Falsely Accused by Security Guard At Work

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about reporting theft:

Hi I am having problems with the security guard who works in my store. I work in the retail industry and at the moment there is a case against this security officer regarding a customer of mine. I reported him over how he dealt with me during this incident, swearing at me and pointing his finger in my face, so I went to management and put a complaint in about him but nothing has been done about it and I have not even got an apology.

Since then I feel he is doing everything in his power to get me into trouble. We had a staff discount day where it allows us to get an extra discount on everything in store–for family too. My family and I spend a large amount of money that day. The next day my boss called me to say they want all of my receipts to examine. The security guard in question was watching me and went through my transactions at the till when I had left and said I got an extra discount. This is false, because the person behind the till puts the discount through.

Now they want a meeting with me and say I could loose my job. I am seriously stressed out and upset returning to my workplace as I feel I am being made out to be stealing. I have no problem bringing everything back I am not that hard up for the money. How should I handle this meeting?

Signed, Stressed

Dear Stressed:

We aren’t attorneys so can can’t give you legal advice about this, but we can give some general guidelines. First, it will likely be best to keep this incident separate from the ongoing problem with the security guard until after this incident has been settled. When you are shown to have done nothing wrong, you can ask for the status of your complaint. Or, you can ask for additional investigation about why the security guard seems to be targeting you. But for now, stick with the more serious allegation against you. If you didn’t purposely get a larger-than- approved discount and you didn’t take anything wrongfully, don’t come into the meeting offering to give things back. That will certainly make you look guilty right away. If, at the meeting, you find out the clerk made an error, then you could offer to pay the extra to make up for the error (if the amount is not excessive). Or, you could return the items that were rung up incorrectly. But don’t offer that until you are absolutely sure an error was made.

Based on what you say here, which may or may not include all the significant information, it would seem that you should go to the meeting with the approach that you did nothing wrong and you want to cooperate to prove that fact.You are not being charged with a crime and your managers are not detectives. I’m sure you can understand why they are concerned about this, since employee theft and purposeful errors are a huge problem for retailers.

If you have a good relationship with your managers usually, be honest with them about how frightened you are that you might lose your job when you did nothing wrong. Point out that you have always done good work and would not jeopardize it in this way.Once they have the receipts they can decide if the items were charged correctly–although I would think they could figure that out from the cash register. If there were errors, be ready to explain them or point out that you had no knowledge of anything except that you checked out and were told what to pay, so you did.I would imagine they are interviewing the clerk who checked you out as well. If not, ask them to do so, since she is the one who would have the most information about what happened.If there is a security guard, there may be security cameras and those might provide information as well. However, it sounds as though it would be fairly easy to see what you purchased and what you paid.

The most important issue is, did you ask for a bigger discount than allowed or give yourself a bigger discount than allowed? Your employer may still decide there was something suspicious and you are a risk for them. I don’t tell you that to stress you more, just to alert you to the chance. But, if you have done good work in the past and can show that you paid what you thought was correct, hopefully that will figure in your favor. Best wishes to you with this. 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.