Overview: Dealing with property theft is part of a good risk management plan. Even small, seemingly harmless theft of property can become significant financial loss over time and across the entire employee population. So, while taking small office supplies, such as paper and pens, once in a while might not seem like a big deal to an employee, it becomes one when multiplied by the life of an individual's employment and the number of employees who also take home office supplies. Add this to bigger, more deliberate thefts of which employers often find themselves victim and it is easy to see the necessity of guarding against all property theft within the workplace.
One of the first things that an employer should do is to create a clear policy defining theft in the workplace and the punishment for it. Clearly communicating this can be a deterrent in and of itself. There are many other security measures that employers can implement to make stealing harder, such as limiting access to commonly stolen items and creating checks-and-balances systems. Another way to avoid theft is to make employees feel valued and appreciated because employees that feel this way are less likely to steal from the workplace.
When it comes to guarding against property theft, an employer must comply with a number of laws. For example, before setting up a video surveillance system, it is important to know any state privacy laws that could affect where cameras may be placed, whether audio recording is allowed and whether employees must be notified of the surveillance.
Trends: An employer must be careful when using background checks during the hiring process as a means to weed out potential thieves. Several states and cities have laws prohibiting employers from asking about arrests, from asking about convictions on a job application form and from conducting credit checks for all positions.
Author: Melissa Gonzalez Boyce, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to include retaliation protections in the forthcoming state paid leave law.
Updated to reflect forthcoming amendments to the Colorado Clean Indoor Air Act.
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Updated to include information on a case involving the medical marijuana law.
Updated to reflect amendments to discrimination protections, effective July 8, 2018.
Updated to include amendment regarding alcohol testing law, effective July 1, 2018.
Updated guidance to include information on the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, effective May 25, 2018.
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Updated to reflect the Defend Trade Secrets Act, effective May 11, 2016.