Falsely Accused of Stealing-Now Trying To Find Wor


I had worked for Wal-Mart for 4 years. I hid a pair of sunglasses that were marked down and the only pair left, to pay for the next time I worked. When I went back to work, I was told I had taken the sunglasses out of the store and I was fired. I had always been dependable, had great reviews and never been written up for anything. At Wal-Mart this act of hiding something to pay for later is done all the time by many associates, and is called understocking. Normally an employee would be verbally warned or written up.

I was working as a Licensed Optician in the vision center. I have been an Optician for 20 years and have never been accused of stealing. Being that local Opticians are tightly linked. the word got out and now I cannot get a job as a Optician anywhere. I have spoken with an attorney but he doesn’t see much he can do. Any ideas?


Needing Help


Dear Needing Help:

Sadly, once the firing took place it was final, unless someone comes forward to show that a mistake was made…and that doesn’t seem likely. From a legal or civil viewpoint, it is not easy to stop gossip, so your attorney was correct that there is not much to be done.

Someone had to report you, so that someone seems to have set you up. If you left the glasses there, they would have still been there unless someone else took them. If no items had been stolen, the inventory would have been correct. If you were seen hiding the glasses on yourself, they may have a video to show it, and if not, they must have a trusted witness.

I wonder if there were other issues involved, such as a desire by someone in the optical section to get rid of you for one reason or another. Or, if this situation was simply the last straw and other things had happened prior to this. I’m not saying that is the case, but I have often found that one thing is used as a reason but many other things are involved.

Whatever the situation, it seems to be over and there is no going back.

Or, perhaps there are other reasons you are not being hired, and they do not involve the firing situation. That may not seem likely to you, but it is a possibility.

If the local optician circle is so close, surely you have been known for the twenty years you have worked. In that length of time it would seem you would have developed friendships, contacts or a network of people who would know that you are not the kind of person who would steal. Or, at least have enough contacts that someone would give you a second chance even if they thought you had shown poor judgment.

If you had positive relationships at the store where you worked, perhaps some of those people will consider writing supportive letters for you. Or, they may be able to provide some insights that will help you in your job search.

Consider doing a complete evaluation of yourself: Appearance, mannerisms, skill, customer service, communication style, getting along with coworkers, and so forth, to see if it is more than that one situation. Ask the most trusted friend you had there if they have an opinion about it. Then, contact HR and ask them if you can get copies of your performance appraisals for the last few years. If they won’t provide them, you can still quote what you remember of them. Use those as part of your resume, to show the quality of work you were doing and how well you were evaluated.

If you really, truly believe it is only the firing incident that is causing the hiring problems, you have nothing to lose by talking about it openly. Go back to a place where you want to be hired but that turned you down, or go to the next place, and tell them honestly what happened. Assure them that such a thing will never happen again and that they will be getting the most dedicated, skilled employee possible if they hire you.

If you can show that you had no former problems, and that you are sincerely sorry for the actions that even started this situation in the first place, you may be able to overcome one negative situation.

Best wishes as you work through this time. It will not take long as a solid employee before everyone forgets this and you move forward as you’d like. I hope you get that chance very soon.

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.