What are my rights as an employee who’s been wrongly accused of theft and forced to sign a promisary note under duress and threat of arrest?

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What are my rights as an employee who’s been wrongly accused of theft and forced to sign a promisary note under duress and threat of arrest?

My employer questioned me about my personal finances, told me his store was financially in trouble, and then 4 days later he accused me of theft and says he’s building a case against me for the police. He withheld my final paycheck, and has told my boyfriend and a DES worker that I was stealing. I was forced to sign a promisary under duress by the police dept. What rights do I have to protect myself when I know I havent stolen anything and knowing he is professional video producer/editor? I have never been in trouble before and I don’t know my rights against the owner and police department.

Asked on August 9, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You had the right to not sign the note and take your chances on being arrested--you could only be arrested on probable cause, and only convicted by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. Having chosen to sign the note, you are most likely bound by it. You could attempt to get out of it on grounds of duress, but be advised that is an uphill battle (duress is very hard to show; it typically takes more than someone offering to not press charges for theft if you re-pay) and you would most likely need an attorney to do so. If the amount of money is not enough to justify an attorney, you may wish to consider paying the note. If you do choose to fight it, the attorney can also advise you if, based on the circumstances, you may have a lawsuit against company, owner, or police.


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