Manager theft -- Rotten day

This AM I had one of my managers meet me for breakfast. He has worked for us for about three years (only 9 mo as a keyholder) It came to my attention that some pizzas were going out without labels and the till was buying cigarettes (by not ringing up slices). He was clocking in early and late on the POS system using the manger overrides…

A rotten conversation. Nothing else to do. I handed him a check for his hours and part of the paid vacation he had coming in about two months. All in all I would guess it cost us several hundred or maybe a couple thousand. I know that is small potatoes compared to what some folks have had happen… but it was the first time for us with a keyholder.

it sucks when it happens ( and it happens to everyone ), but be glad you found out as early as you did, move to the next and take the lessons learned to make it harder for the next one to get away with it.

I was lucky that four different employees came to tell me what what up when we got back from a week out of town. We are in a very small town, so ending it in a non-confrontational way is best for all. He knows I am well connected here and I don’t need any local hassels from him.

You let him off too easy. I would (and have in the past) had the police meet him and have him charged with theft by employee (a felony in my state).

IMO, your other employees need to know that there is more risk if they choose to steal than getting fired and still getting your paid vacation money.

Registered Guest… good post and good thought process. With that post, I think we can learn something:

I think it would be safe to say most of us in this forum are genuinely good people. We look at our past as we came through this business and learned the things that make employees want to work harder. We also look into the past and understand methods that don’t work with employee morale. We get so fixated on treating people in a positive manner, always encouraging great work and challenging to improve, that we lose sight of the nasty realization that some people will steal from us.

After reading the original post from bodegahwy, I thought to myself, “You know, here’s a class act. Even in the worst circumstances this guy still treats his people with respect”. Then I read the post from Registered Guest

You let him off too easy. I would (and have in the past) had the police meet him and have him charged with theft by employee (a felony in my state).

IMO, your other employees need to know that there is more risk if they choose to steal than getting fired and still getting your paid vacation money.

I actually sat back in my chair and thought for a minute before I decided to comment on this. And the reason I want to make a comment on this is because I read this original post a little earlier tonight and thought the situation was handled perfectly. Then after reading this last post I have to ask the question, “Are we too consumed with trying to encourage employees to succeed that we lose sight of the fact that harsh acts deserve harsh penalties?” I can assure you this manager was doing a lot more taking than just cash for cigs. Should’ve the police been called? Should an example have been made to re-ensure integrity in the work place?

If something like this were to happen at one of my locations I would most certainly not pay vacation time. I will say I need a little advice on this situation however, if this does happen in the future. If a manager is caught stealing in one of my stores and I can determine an amount that was taken, can the money be recouped in their final paycheck? Will documentation have to be signed to protect myself against a possible lawsuit? Or, do they have to be paid anyway?


Had more than a few situations like this over the many years. Two things come to mind. (1) I remember reading somewhere years ago a saying that went something like this “there is no such thing as elimination of theft; only acceptable levels”.
(2) Had one situation where a waitress was stealling from us. Had two witnesses. My manager called me and asked what to do. I said, not enough witnesses or evidence so do nothing about it and just watch. A couple of weekds later another incident. This time about 5 witnesses. I said, o.k., terminate her. Well, the girl was pregnant and she filed a grievance with the labor board saying we terminated her because she was pregnant. We researched all of our stores (had many in those days) and found 3 or 4 other pregnant employees working to almost full term. All of this took many hours of office time by our people. We go to the labor board armed with what we thought was everything necessary to win the day. We did win the day but we were admonished by the labor board. They said in all fairness the girl should have been warned before she was terminated. “for stealing, we asked increduously?” Nothing like the minds of government people. But, we were through, right? Wrong. The girl gets a public defender to file a civil suit against us. I get an attorney because i am not going to cave when we are absolutely correct. So we get a couple of months down the road and maybe a couple of thousand dollars in legal fees and my lawyer calls me. He said he had some good news and bad news. The good news is that I will win the case hands down. the bad news is that it will cost me in excess of $10,000 to win the case (this was in the early 80’s). Or, he said, you can pay the girl a little over $2,000 now and walk away. So the state pays her legal and the thief walks away with over $2,000 and we are 100% right in what we did. And we wasted an untold number of man hours and stress dealing with the case. A very wise man told me one time that sometimes it is not worth fighting for principle in certain situations. Better to cut your losses and get on with life. We treat people fairly and honestly and this was very difficult to accept but in the final analysis it was better to get on with life. I feel that people like this girl will get what they deserve at some point in their lives. Thieves and other deceitful people pay the price one way or the other. We may not see it but it happens. Most the people I have seen who turned out to be thieves or simply dishonest were not real happy peolple. It rubs off onto everything we do and to everything that we think to some extent. I have a relative who is just this way. He makes a lot of money as well. My wife says, “so where is his payback”? Well, it has taken a few years but payback is happening. Many people have become aware of what he really is. Nobody I know has any respec for him. Nobody I know wants to be a part of anything concerning him. Some, maybe many, do not even want to be around him. You think this does not affect him and his family?
I am pressed for time here so no time for proofing what I wrote so I hope the experience and lesson I learned come through. It is so tough to walk away. I will do what I can to do right by people and I will deal as best I can with underhanded employees but at some point we have to get on with life and let life deal with these people.

I dont believe you can withhold pay for any reason. Of course, you can, separate from the pay issue, have a claim for repayment - but then again you’d have to file charges to get yourself in the position to make a claim.

Thanks for your post. I too bend over backward to work with my people in any way I can. But there is a difficult line that must be drawn - and that can never be crossed. If someone is stealing from you, IMO there is only one option to take - and that is to get the authorities involved. It’s hard not to feel bad for the person - but they did it to themselves.

I have been down the police route. If you can not prove the theft, and in this case we can not, it is a waste of time.

We live in a very small town. I serve on several local boards and civic organizations. The individual in question will end up paying a greater price by not having me as a reference. Just a couple of weeks ago I had a request for a reference for another employee who was a real problem when he worked for us several years ago. My response was “I can confirm that he worked for us from Nov '99 through June '00. I have nothing else to say about him.”

The number one priority for me in this situation was to restore employee morale and confidence. For more than 20 years I have been in positions where I had up to 100 people under me. Having employees looking over their shoulder wondering if they will be suspected of theft is a cancer no business can afford. I wanted this handled promptly, respectfully (especially considering I can not prove it and the employee denies it) and fairly.

The individual was also a hard worker. Paying him a few hundred in vacation pay so the everyone could see that he was treated with respect and fairness was a cheap price to pay.

I struggle with this, too. I know from lots of job experiences and professional education that natural and logical consequences for behaviors are most effective. Poor behaviors need some sort of attention immediately to be corrected, and groups need to see the consequences of behaviors . . . both good and bad . . . in order to create the atmosphere of respect and security.

People get huge praise and pats on the back publically, and then we take them into an office to criticize poor performance and/or to dismiss someone for something egregious. Where do we draw the line between protecting individual dignity and protecting the work environment and group identity that we work so hard to build?

I just don’t know either. I guess that part is more art than science. How much carrot and how much stick . . . .

I have certainly had people steal from me over the years… Some I caught, some I couldn’t catch Some I didn’t even know about.

I fantasize about calling the police and having them arrested but in reality you need solid proof. If I had it and it was a “substatial” amount I would call the police, but I think most people steal here and there in an effort not to get caught.

Where is the justice? Well lets see the guy worked for 3 years and any job application is going to ask past employment and it is not like you can sugar coat a 3 year lapse. If it is a managment application you will definately get a call.

Man do I love those. You have to be “discreet” with your answers but my favorite is “Would you re hire?” Reply “ABSOLUTELY NOT…NO…NO WAY” “Why Not?” Reply “Legally I am not sure what I can say so I will leave it at Absolutely Not! NEVER!”

As for the example for the other employees.

Stealing costs everyone money, including the other employees.

My comments are something along the lines of “Johnny was a great worker, I trusted him but it sure makes sense now why we were having a hard time having money ( for raises new cutters new whatever.) It isn’t the money so much though…you all know you can come to me if you need something there is no need to steal it.” I would never steal from you guys. I would remind them stealing at all levels is wrong. Eating a pickle off the maketable is stealing, I have to pay for it and so should you.

I think when we remind the employees we all are hurt by theft it keeps the focus on the thief and how wrong it is to steal.

As for the employees who told you, man would I commend them and praise them, thank them. They are truly heroes and we should focus (without naming them) on how even in these circumstances it is such a blessing to know you have employees you can trust and truly respect you and your business. Some of the other crew will look at them a snitches but you need to keep them in focus as the heroes.

One thing that really had an impact and was mentioned by two of the employees when they told me about what was going on is that the thefts were hurting their bonuses.

I am pretty open with my full timers about how the business is doing and I pay 20% of the profit back to employees in bonuses. (I pay myself a wage before it is calculated) In this case they were seeing money go out the door (or not into the till) and realized that 20% of the money belonged to them…

Why the 20% you might ask:

  1. I don’t pay it except when we are making money.
  2. I don’t pay overtime on it.
  3. I direct it to those who I see contributing.
  4. The managers can connect saving labor and food costs to profits and understand that they benefit from every dollar saved or extra sale made.

I have a 9 year track record of paying bonuses so the employees know it is real. Last year bonuses, including season ski passes, totaled 13-14K. Spread to 3-4 employees that is some significant money.

Wow. The manager stealing from you was making around $3,500 just in bonuses plus ski passes and still stole from you ??

It’s such a ‘kick in da gut’ feeling when you find out that one of your mgrs is stealing from you. There is a certain level of trust and mutual goals that you share with your managers and then one of them goes and does something like this. Not good.

I’m sorry to hear that happened to you.

the guy I let go has a track record around town that I am aware of. I did not put him into a position of responsibility for over two years because of it. For the first 7 months as a manager I had a GM above him that ran a pretty tight ship. I think this guy really believes that what he does is “normal”. He seemed suprised to be fired. Go figure.

When the GM left this April (after 4 years) I decided to go without for a while and see which of the assistants stepped up. Well, now one of them has stepped out. I promoted the other more senior one to GM yesterday.

We only run one location during the Summer so the manager load is easier until November. Plenty of time to get things in order. In the mean time the feeling around the shop is much better already.

Never delay these things.

Haven’t read other responses, but I don’t think you can withhold the stolen money from a paycheck. Not unless/until it has been PROVEN and decided by a court of law is the thief technically a theif, and so messing with a paycheck is criminal in itself.
I agree regarding the partial payout of vacation - that was WAY generous. Maybe (I doubt it) someone somewhere will find out you did that, and take it as a small slap in the face that says “some of us are honest - REALLY honest - and better men than you.” You promised something to the guy (vacation) and delivered every penny. In comparison…

Our labor laws here dictate exactly what you must pay for vacation. You are required to pay it no matter what the reason for leaving. It is part of the wage and really bites you when you have to pay for someting like this.

Our vacation policy is not written down and vacation hours are not accrued. I was under no legal obligation.

you guys get the short end a lot, huh? Looney money, $4/lb+ cheese prices and government mandated vacation compensation. Next thing you tell me, you’ll have to have two languages . . . .

Oh ya but we do have government health care at a low cost of $88 a month. And our gas price just dropped to $1.08 a litre (about $4/gal)

two things which may help. Make sure that your contract/employee handbook/policy includes the following as explicit terms of employment:

  1. That yo may recover any money due to fraud, negligence or theft

  2. that final pay is paid cash to be collected from the shop when unifirm/staff equipment is returned.

In terms of point 1 - yes you will need to prove it, not necessairily that it goes to court but you have sufficient proof to believe that theft took place. When I had a final dismissal meeting with one of my staff I had already drawn up a page for them to sign authorising the deduction, I asked him to sign and he did (without even hesitating).

Re the second point - I do this for all staff to make sure I get uniform back but you’d be suprised how many people bring their uniform (straight away or leave it when they go) but do not come in to collect their pay.

I’m moving over there !!! We’re hitting AU$1.40 a litre at the moment and in the weekend financial papers they are talking of U$100 a barrel for crude oil which will drive our petrol prices to over AU$2.00 a litre to over U$10 per gallon.

We will be charging $10 delivery fee if we have any drivers by then :cry: