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Firing because you suspect thievery: Better be prepared to prove it

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in Compensation and Benefits,Firing,Human Resources

Employees who steal from their employers violate their duty of loyalty. That makes them ineligible for unemployment compensation. That’s true even if the theft is small.

But you must be prepared with clear testimony if you want to contest the worker’s right to unemployment benefits.

Recent case: Misty worked for a bar as a manager, and also tended bar. Her supervisor never suspected she was anything but loyal and trustworthy until a customer told him he saw Misty take a $20 bill out of the cash register and put it in the tip jar. He fired her for theft, even though she denied taking the money.

At the unemployment compensation hearing, the customer refused to testify. Instead, the supervisor recounted what the customer (who had admittedly been drinking) had told him.

That wasn’t good enough for the court. It refused to consider the indirect hearsay testimony, even coming up with several alternative explanations for what the supervisor said the customer saw. It ordered the payment of benefits. (Eystad v. RKT Food and Fun, et al., No. A12-1511, Court of Appeals of Minnesota, 2013)

Final note: Remember, falsely accusing someone of theft can have other consequences, especially if the information is made public. Never tell anyone but those who need to know why you terminated an employee. Don’t make an example of her. Don’t make the accusation in public. Doing so opens you up to a defamation lawsuit.

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