Falsely Accused of Stealing.

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accusation of stealing:

I have never taken anything from my job at a big electronic store) without paying for it. Today a man from the company’s Asset and Loss Prevention took me into the office and asked me to tell him about what was stolen. He said that they already know what I have done, but want me to tell them everything I’ve stolen so they can “consider my cooperation in the final decision-making process”.

I have never stolen anything, nor have I served as an accomplice. The man made me sign a statement form that had a check mark by status: Accused. He refused to tell me what I am accused off, or who accused me.The entire time I was in the office, the man continued to threaten me about ‘consequences’ and stated that I was lying to him. I was finally let out of the office after the man said he would be seeing me again very soon. The department I used to work for in has recently been missing $18,000 of merchandise. For the past three months however, I have been in other departments.

The interview/interrogation process was brutal and the man kept saying he knows what I have done but wouldn’t tell me. If this was all a scare tactic, then why am I accused, and am I entitled to know what I am accused off? And what can I do to take action against the way I was treated?

Signed, Unfairly Treated

Dear Unfairly Treated:

Some unprofessional loss prevention employees (the person who talked to you) go on fishing expeditions with their accusations and questions. You can be sure if you had observed or video-taped been stealing one or more items, the police would be talking to you–your company would not still be at the threatening stage.

First, if there is a company employee’s rights policy, refer to it. Or, if there are policies about how employee’s have to respond when being investigated, check that out as well. Make sure of your rights and responsibilities as an employee. Then, write a letter immediately and send copies to your supervisor, the head of Loss Prevention and your company’s HR section. In it describe the interrogation.

Try to quote exact statements made by the investigator that you feel were threatening or inappropriate, rather than just paraphrasing. Then, state that you have never taken any item, that you feel you were treated threateningly and that you want your letter about the incident to be made part of your records. If your company has any written material that talks about how it values its employees you might want to quote that and say the investigator certainly didn’t live up to that philosophy!

On the other hand, you may have appeared to be cooperating with the investigator, so the view could be taken that if the investigator did something wrong, you should have complained at the time. For example, I don’t know what you signed, but in the future, don’t sign anything unless your supervisor is present and explains it to your satisfaction. If you are only signing a written statement you have made, that is not harmful to you. But do not sign anything else, unless you know exactly what it contains and that what it contains is not an admission of any kind, or gives up your rights in any way.As for whether the investigator will be seeing your again–I doubt it. But if he says he wants to talk to you, ask for a supervisor to be present. State adamantly but with a civil tone, that you have done nothing wrong and you feel that you were mistreated before. If he continues to “grill you” about it, say that you feel you are being threatened and you want to stop the conversation until you can talk with HR or others about how the situation is happening.If you have the money for an attorney, you may want to keep that phone number handy. Don’t spend the money at this point. But if you feel you are being accused again, say that you will not talk about it further until you can talk to your attorney. Keep this in mind–this is not a police officer you’re dealing with, so you don’t have to be advised of your rights and the questioning doesn’t have limits, legally. HOWEVER, any statement you make can be given to the police and used in a case against you. So, don’t say any more than you have to say, don’t try to be nice by saying you might have forgotten something, or you may have looked as though you were taking something but you didn’t, etc. Just say you didn’t and stick with that. If there is no evidence, there is no evidence. If you didn’t take anything, there will be no evidence.

If you know others where you used to work, you may want to contact them and see if they have gone through the same thing. That would at least make you feel better about the fact that you are not really the prime suspect!Best wishes with 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.