Wrongly Accused And Want My Name Cleared

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accused of stealing:

My boss has recently accused me of stealing money from the workplace and then replacing it later. He has threatened to prosecute me even though he has absolutely no evidence against me. I am completely innocent and have told him I want to be present when he watches the security footage however he is refusing to let me. It has been two days since this incident occurred and he has not brought the matter up again. I want my name cleared because I know, and everyone else in our workplace, knows that I am innocent. What advice can you give me on how to handle the situation?

Signed, Angry and Innocent

Dear Angry and Innocent:

I can imagine how frustrating and hurtful this is if you did nothing wrong and yet were accused of it. The most obvious way to respond is to seek an attorney’s advice and assistance. He could contact your boss and ask for copies of evidence or an indication of what is going to be done about the situation and demand that your name be cleared officially. That would probably stop the entire situation quickly, given that you know there is no evidence. It would probably not cost very much money to have things taken care of in a solid way. You could probably have this resolved in a few days.

If you want to try some other approaches first, there are a few options you can try on your own. Several things will probably determine what you do about the situation: How much you were accused of taking (the severity of the accusation), your work relationship with your boss prior to this, whether or not you want to stay working there with this in the picture, the type of business in which you work, how far you are willing to go to clear your name and what you want as a resolution.The first issue involves the amount that was supposedly taken and replaced. Although I understand it is hurtful and potentially harmful to be accused of taking even a little bit of change, that is less frightening and damaging than being accused of taking a larger amount of money. If you’re accused of taking a large amount, you will probably want to push this more to make sure you don’t have it hanging over your head in the future.

One direct way to do it (I’m not saying it’s the best way, just one way) is to go to your boss and tell him that you would like him to call the police to the business, have them see the evidence and have them decide if there is enough evidence to take a report or to implicate you. Tell him you want to get this investigated and over with. You have nothing to fear from that and your boss would have to back down or agree.I wouldn’t usually suggest that option, because the police should not be used to resolve what could be viewed as a workplace argument. But, a crime may have actually occurred even though you didn’t do it.

Asking your boss to call the police will require him to either do something about it or acknowledge to you that he has nothing to take to the police. That might not mean he no longer suspects you but at least it would show he has nothing to base his suspicions on.I don’t think he will call the police if he has nothing to indicate who took the money. And, since he has no evidence and the money was replaced anyway, even if he calls the police they will leave quickly without taking a report! You will have the satisfaction of having it made clear to everyone that you were not guilty.That is an extreme option though! So, before you go to that extreme, consider some other options. If you have always had a good relationship with your boss and would like to stay at the job with the hope of at least getting along in the future, consider talking directly to him again about your feelings over all of this.

Tell him how important it is to you to clear your name in his mind as well as in the minds of others. Avoid having a counter-accusatory tone about his unfairness. I can certainly understand why you would want to do that, but it won’t accomplish anything positive and will make him jump to defend himself instead of keeping his focus on clearing your name. Consider asking him what makes him think money was taken and replaced. You may be able to explain something about the money handling process that will help him understand he was mistaken. Or, you might be able to help him identify who actually DID take money and replace it. You may also find out that a coworker was his information source!You may want to ask once again if you can watch any security tape. You can’t make him let you watch it, but he also can’t easily lie and say he saw you on it. That would require him to follow up on his threat to call the police and he would know he had no evidence for further action. (That brings us back to the first option.) Another thing to consider is the type and size of your business or organization. If your boss owns the business there is no one higher to go to, so he is your only appeal route. But, if there is someone above him, you may want to appeal to that person to have this closed and your name cleared.The next consideration is how far you want to go with this. That is one reason I suggested the attorney at the beginning. If it’s important enough that you are willing to spend a bit of money to have your name cleared, that would be the best way to go. At least you could call an attorney’s office and ask about it.The final consideration is what you want to have as a resolution. You may never get a formal or written apology for the false accusation. For one thing, your boss may always feel you did what he suspects but he just can’t prove it. (That would be sad but might be the case.) Even if he knows you didn’t do anything wrong, he may feel he was justified to say something to you based on the evidence he thought he had.

So, you may have to settle for an acknowledgement to you that he was mistaken or at least that he can’t prove his accusations. If that acknowledgement will be OK with you, I hope it comes to that point quickly so you can move on in your life and work. If you can’t work with your boss under this cloud, you may want to find other work, as tough a decision as that would be.This may all go away quickly and your boss may sincerely regret that he jumped so quickly on what he thought happened. He may already wish he hadn’t said anything but just doesn’t know how to get things back to normal. Maybe you can help in all of it when you talk to him in a way that makes it easier for him to tell you he was wrong. Best wishes to you through this troubling situation. 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.