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Employers keep track of alleged employee theft

In recent years, theft by employees has been an increasing problem for many employers. As a result, some Kansas City retail companies have begun to use databases to record employees accused of theft. Tens of thousands of companies, including some major retailers, subscribe to these databases. There is some question about how these databases impact employee rights.

An employer may enter an employee into the system with little information. Sometimes only suspected thefts are reported, and many of the reports do not result in criminal charges against the accused employee. Regardless, the existence of the employee's information in a database may prevent that person from being hired.

Some of the employees report being questioned by store security and signing a written statement. These employees were unaware that the statement submitted was considered an admission of theft or that it could be used to prevent them from getting a job later. One employee admitted to signing a statement solely because she was afraid of going to jail if she did not. Some lawyers have expressed concern that the employees are being coerced into confessing without understanding the ramifications. While safeguards are used to ensure that only correct information is reported, it can be difficult to get incorrect information removed.

Employees that are questioned in this manner do not receive constitutional safeguards. They are not informed that they have a right remain silent or that a signed statement can hurt future employment prospects. Any employees who believe themselves to be erroneously included in one of these databases may benefit from consulting with a lawyer about the possibility of having the information removed.

Source: New York Times, "Retailers Track Employee Thefts in Vast Databases," Stephanie Clifford and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, April 2, 2013

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