Q. We strongly suspect that one of our employees has been taking money out of the cash register. Whenever he is responsible for the register, there are a lot more shortages than when others work the register. Even though we can’t prove he is taking money, can we terminate his employment?
A. Yes, but be careful how you characterize the reasons for your decision. Assuming the employee is an at-will employee (he isn’t a party to a contract or a member of a union), you can terminate his employment for any lawful reason.
There are different reasons that could explain the cause of the discrepancies with your cash register. He might be taking money from the register, or he might be careless in the way he operates it.
Regardless of the reasons, you have a legitimate business interest in making certain the cash register is managed accurately. The fact that he is not able to meet your expectations provides you legitimate grounds for terminating his employment.
Since you are not certain he is stealing money, be careful not to accuse him of theft when communicating the reasons for your decision. Such accusations could lead to a defamation lawsuit. Under Minnesota’s self-publication doctrine, such a claim would be viable even if the only person who heard the defamatory statement was the terminated employee.