If your employer accuses you of theft or fraud, you should speak to a criminal defence lawyer straightaway. Being convicted of such a crime can have a devastating impact on your life, potentially resulting in the loss of your job, a jail sentence and difficulty securing future employment.
Theft and fraud in the workplace
The law divides cases of shoplifting, theft and fraud into two broad categories – theft under $5,000 and theft over $5,000.
Ordinarily, being found guilty of theft under $5,000 is not likely to lead to a severe penalty, such as a jail sentence. However, if the alleged offence occurred in the workplace, it is considered to be much more serious. This is because employees are placed in a position of trust. It does not matter what your position or salary, employers entrust their staff to act with honesty and integrity. This means not stealing from the business, be it a chocolate bar from a supermarket shelf or money from a company account.
If an employee does commit theft or fraud in the workplace, there will have been a ‘breach of trust’. Offences associated with a breach of trust are not taken lightly, and if the accused is found guilty, the court may hand out a fine or even a jail sentence.
Consequences of being accused of theft at work
Just the suggestion that you may have stolen from work may be enough to prompt your employer to fire you – even if you are actually innocent or there is a perfectly plausible explanation for your actions. You will suddenly be left without an income, and it may be hard to secure another job, especially if your reputation has been damaged or you cannot get a good reference.
Sadly this does happen, and there have been numerous cases across Canada in which an employee has actually been acquitted of theft in the workplace, and yet has still lost their job or been demoted. Some have gone on to successfully sue their employer (or former employer) for the damage this has caused. In fact, one man in Ontario was awarded over $2million compensation after he was falsely accused of theft at work.
Of course, if you are found guilty of theft or fraud at work, the repercussions will be even more grave. There may be a fine to pay and a jail sentence to serve. Given that you will have a criminal record, it may be impossible to secure employment in the future, leading to severe financial difficulties.
What should you do?
If you have been accused of theft or fraud at work, it is best to speak to a criminal defence lawyer without delay. Ideally, you should seek independent legal advice as soon as you become aware of the internal investigation against you.
You should also –
- Keep a written record of everything that happens relating to the alleged offence, and everything that is said in your presence
- Keep a copy of all the communications relating to the accusation, such as emails and letters
- Do not say or do anything that would incriminate you, including making an apology
- Consult with an employment lawyer, particularly if you’ve been denied EI benefits
A criminal defence lawyer can advise what to do next. Every case is different and the best approach will depend on your individual set of circumstances.
To find out more about how we can help you, please do not hesitate to contact us at North Shore Law LLP.