Falsely Labelled A Thief

Question:

I borrowed petty cash from work to take a taxi because it was late–12 a.m., and I had to return to work at seven the next morning. The next day I gave back the money and now I’m being accused of stealing money from the job. I was fired from my job and now I can’t claim unemployment because I was labeled a thief!

Signed,

Bewildered


Answer:

Dear Bewildered:

I’m very sorry the situation resulted in you being fired, and I can imagine how unfair it seems to you. I can also see the viewpoint of your employer if he or she felt there were other ways you could have handled the situation. (Getting permission early in the evening to use the money in that way or leaving a note in the petty cash drawer, then having a taxi receipt to show what it was used for.)

It could be that you did those things but your employer wants to ensure that it never happens again and is sending a message to other employees as well as to you. Or, it could be there were other work issues already and this was just one more thing in the eyes of your employer.

It also seems that if you had a good relationship and the trust of your boss, what you did would not have been treated so harshly.

So, the bottom line is that even though it seems unfair, your employer can justify dismissal. If you have an appeals process or if your work is in a larger company, maybe you can speak to someone else about it and help them understand your thought process about it at the time.

Even if you think the process is over and done with, consider writing a letter to your former employer and say that it is very important to you for him to know you were telling the truth. Reiterate that you did not intend to keep the money you used for a taxi and that you honestly used it and returned it. Say that you did not consider the money to be part of regular store receipts, which you would not have touched. Instead, you thought it was petty cash that could be used in that way. You can say that you now know your mistake but you also know that you would not steal anything, and you want him to know that as well.

A full explanation like that may at least make your employer feel differently about you if someone checks on your employment in the future. Also, before you assume you can’t claim unemployment, check with the office in your state that handles those claims to find out for sure.

As soon as you get another job, start immediately to build a reputation for strong work ethic, honesty, dependability and responsibility, so you can put this behind you and build your resume for the future. Relationships with employers and managers can make all the difference in how situations are handled, because your general character will be better known.

Best wishes to you as you move forward from this unfortunate situation.

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.