• LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Google+

Suspect employees of theft? Questions are OK, but detaining risks ‘False imprisonment’ claim

by on
in HR Management,Human Resources

A high percentage of workplace theft is the work of insiders, and your employees aren’t immune to temptation. That’s one reason you may want to question employees when money or goods disappear. But don’t act like the police and detain employees you suspect of thievery for longer than necessary.

Plus, never imply that they are not free to leave or that you are using force to detain them against their wills. That’s a sure recipe for a “false imprisonment” claim.

You can threaten to call the police, though, without breaking the law.

Recent case: Terry Rerich worked for Lowe’s Home Centers at the customer service desk and operated the cash register. When the drawer was found to be short $100, the loss prevention manager and an HR representative approached Rerich about the missing money. They met her at the back of the store and demanded she confess and agree to repay the money.

Rerich told the court she was afraid to leave because the manager said he would have her arrested if she did. But no one blocked the door or physically threatened her. All in all, she stayed for almost three hours and then was told to clock out and leave. She sued for false imprisonment, claiming the threat to call the police kept her from leaving freely.

But the court disagreed, concluding that it takes more than the threat of jail to create false imprisonment. (Rerich v. Lowe’s Home Centers, No. 01-05-01165-CV, Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas, 2007)

Leave a Comment