What are my rights if accused of employee theft?

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What are my rights if accused of employee theft?

I was recently sent home pending an investigation of a missing computer. They cannot accuse me of theft because I didn’t steal it, however they state I was the last one to have possesion, which is true, but I placed it in our manager’s office which is open at all times. They have me on film picking it up. When I asked them to disclose film of me taking it, they could not.

Asked on March 6, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Three different issues here:

1) Can charges be pressed against you for theft--yes, but only if they have enough evidence to convince the authorities to do so, and to be convicted, the evidence against you would have to be beyond a reasonable doubt. Without sufficient evidence, you can't face criminal liabity, and, if charged, (a) they have to be able to prove their case and (b) you have the right to put on a defense.

2) Can you be sued for the value of the computer--yes, but as with the above, they need the evidence to back it up, and you can put up a defense. It's easy to get a civil judgment than a criminal conviction, but it still requires evidence.

3) Can you be fired from your job, or otherwise disciplined--if you do not have an employment contract, you are an employee at will and you may be discliplined, demoted, suspended, terminated, etc. at will, for any reason or no reason at all. So you can face job repurcussions. If you have a contract, though, any terms about firing or discipline need to be honored, and if you feel you are being discrminated against because of a protected characteristic (e.g. race, sex, religion, disability, age over 40) you may have a discrimination claim.

If the employer is making negative public (even to any third party) factual statements (e.g. "he stole") and those statements hurt your reputation and are not true, you may have a defamation claim and wish to discuss this with a personal injury attorney.


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