What can I do if I was terminated by my employer after taking home Easter plants that I was told to dispose of?

This happened 6 weeks ago at a nationwide retailer. I had told 2 people in management positions that I was taking them home and no none ever said “you can’t do that”. Now the corporation is trying (through their attorneys) to get me to pay approximately $900 for the “garbage plants”. I had originally agreed to pay $460 (to avoid this very situation) for the value (retail) of the plants but the attorneys have upped it to $900. I made one payment before realizing this. I have told them I will not pay anymore and to take me to court. I assume they will be prosecuting me as well. What are my options here?

Asked on May 31, 2014 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

1) You can't do anything about being terminated, unless you have an employment contract, the terms of which were violated or breached by your termination. That is because in the absence of a contract, all employment is "employment at will"--you can be fired at any time, for any reason, even unfair or mistaken ones.

2) If the believe you stole from them, they could sue you for the balance; to win, they'd have to prove in court that it is "more likely than not" that you took the plants without permission (they can use their managers' testimony; you can obviously deny that based on your testimony, and the court will decide who to believe). It is unlikely that they will go through the trouble of suing for this amount of money, but they have the right to do.

3) They could contact the police and try to press charges. Whether anything comes of that will depend on whether the authorities believe that there would be sufficient evidence that, with criminal intent, you took the plants.

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