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Book 'Em, Danno: Dealing With A Dishonest Employee
by Jeff Mollet

WE ALL HATE TO ADMIT IT BUT on occasion even the best of us hire an employee that at some point into the employment journey just seems to warrant additional oversight. Dealing with the situation can take time, tact and tenacity.

Obviously, once you become aware that a dishonest action may have occurred, it will be necessary to investigate the situation in order to determine the actual facts and circumstances. You are not likely to catch the employee “red handed” so it will be necessary to carefully, cautiously and completely investigate the situation. It is only with all of the actual facts in hand that an appropriate and safe decision as to the employee’s conduct can be made.

Since the proverbial fox in the henhouse situation is not likely to exist, it falls upon the employer to appropriately decipher what happened before the appropriate action, or inaction, can be determined. Any investigation will progress much more easily if the employer has established (or, better yet, adopted written) rules on handling such issues. The key, as with any company policy, it to be consistent in its application and impartial during the process to protect the employee’s rights. These concepts are especially crucial if other employees will be asked to assist in the investigation as additional confidentiality issues also arise.

Here are some key steps to consider, and there are surely a myriad of others to consider based upon the particular circumstance you are dealing with.

  1. It would seem prudent that as a threshold matter the source of the initial allegation be evaluated for veracity and accuracy. In short, does the allegation pass the smell test or is it likely that the events alleged could have taken place? If not, that beeping you hear is your common sense saying “tread lightly from here on out or close the investigation and move on.”
  2. If your initial review indicates more investigation is warranted, try to determine the scope what will need to be done. What documents do you need to see? For each document collected, mark it as to source and date as these documents may become your “evidence” for any review, appeal or trial.
  3. Who will you need to speak with? Be careful here to avoid simple conversation aimed at “getting the information on the sly.” The better approach is to take the high road. You need not (and should not) disclose material information or acknowledge an investigation is ongoing. Rather, you need to obtain certain facts and information about an event. Sometimes, disclosure is unavoidable but care should be taken to discuss the confidential nature of the process and to warn those who you speak of the need for caution.
  4. Are there external records that might help (bank, telephone, email)? Do you need to hire professional help? Private investigator? Surveillance company? Accountant? Attorney?
  5. Evaluate all of the evidence once it is collected. Do the facts clearly lead to a conclusion? What would a jury of the employee’s peer conclude from the evidence? If the answer is not clear, you may need to seek more information to confirm the answer either way.
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