Employee Theft

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Small Biz & Charities' MoneySaving
7 replies 793 views
elephant_2elephant_2 Forumite
3 Posts
edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Small Biz & Charities' MoneySaving
Hi all

I need some advice about a potential theft from my business by an employee.

I have run a mail order company in my spare time for three years, and just over a year ago opened a shop to complement the mail order. Because my circumstances at the time were specific in that I could not give up my job to run the shop, I employed a friend as manager.

To cut a long story short, although things were great to start with, my friend changed beyond all recognition over the last six months. The last four months have been horrendous for me - it feels very much like she's done all she can to ruin the business. I'm not going to go into it here, but I could give you a long list of the things that she's done recently.

Anyway, we decided to shut the shop (despite me fighting tooth and nail for months to keep it open) and bring the business back home and build it up again. We offered her the same hours each week to come and work from here, but she declined and left our employment on Friday.

We had an index box in the shop that was full of customer details and supplier details, and it appears to be missing. I am concerned that she has information that relates to my business that she has no rights to, and I want it back. Can anyone advise how I ought to go about it? My first thought is that as I haven't given her her last pay cheque yet that I tell her that I'm not paying her until she returns my property. My husband is in favour of telling her that we will report her for theft if she doesn't return the box immediately.

As far as friendship is concerned, she's shown her true colours recently and it seems obvious that she really is no friend of mine. I am certain that she has been spreading lies about me amongst my customers - one of whom was becoming a good friend but who seems to have cooled off towards me recently. She's also organised an event elsewhere (we used to hold the same event on a regular basis at the shop) and has advertised it without making it plain that it's nothing to do with my business. I know that lots of my customers are going, giving her another opportunity to stick the knife in deeper.

And as for me, I have to be quite honest. I feel gutted, betrayed, let down, stabbed in the back, and worse yet ... I feel suicidal. I trusted her implicitly to run my business, and I bent over backwards to accommodate her (ie changing the hours that the shop was open to suit her family life), and this is how she repays everything that I did for her.

TFL.

Replies

  • daveboydaveboy Forumite
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    Nothing is worth feeling suicidal over - you have my support and I am sure as users of the site see this thread there will be many others who will be here for you.

    With regard to the potential theft, you need to be absolutely sure it is missing, and that no-one else could possibly have had access to it. If you are sure, then I would contact your local beat officer. Hopefully they will be able to talk to you about your situation - as the index box is an important aspect of running your business, for me at least it is like stealing money and should be investigated.

    There is the potential for the police to say this is a 'domestic dispute' but it all depends on whether you can prove a theft. If you believe you can then contact the police.

    Others will possibly have other suggestions but do please keep us informed - if you have something on your mind you can certainly PM me.
  • QueenieQueenie Forumite
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    elephant wrote:
    Hi all

    I need some advice about a potential theft from my business by an employee.
    .....
    And as for me, I have to be quite honest. I feel gutted, betrayed, let down, stabbed in the back, and worse yet ... I feel suicidal. I trusted her implicitly to run my business, and I bent over backwards to accommodate her (ie changing the hours that the shop was open to suit her family life), and this is how she repays everything that I did for her.

    TFL.

    If you suspect theft - call the Police.

    On a personal level - ((hugs)) - I can understand how the stress and the way you feel treated have had such a profound affect on how you feel!!!
    Take one step at a time; one moment at a time if need be.
    Perhaps you could consider seeing your Dr? If that isn't a path you want to go down, then maybe you need to have a good "unburdening" session with a trusted family member or friend?

    I'm sorry you're hurting :( ((hugs))
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    PMS Pot: £57.53 Pigsback Pot: £23.00
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  • She's the only person that's been working in the shop, so there is no-one else who could've taken it. I know it was there last Thursday (12th), because I meant to pick it up and bring it home with me (suspecting that she would take it), but I forgot.

    I can't be 100% certain that the box wasn't hers to begin with ... but nevertheless, she has collated information about my customers on the cards, and she has no right to it. My hubby wanted me to e-mail her and ask her if she's got it, but I think I will wait until tomorrow and call in to the Police station up the road and ask for their advice.

    Thanks, both.

    Queenie, my hubby is trying really hard to be supportive, but he doesn't really understand how I really feel about the way she's treated me. He keeps saying that the best revenge is to make the business boom - she seems to have a mindset that without her we will collapse.

    At the moment, hubby and father in law are emptying the shop and bringing it all back here. Everything has got to be moved upstairs, but I have no energy and feel shaky, and just desperately desperate. It's got to be done though, cos I have to start sorting out the mess she left re orders and invoices etc.
  • shopbotshopbot Forumite
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    Hi, First of all I'd like to send you my best wishes...it must be an awful time for you.
    If you go to the Police I would advise you to try and get in contact with the area beat officer for the location your shop was in. If it was in a town centre then there will be a specific officer who will be allocated to retail crime.

    From reading your post I suspect that the issue you will encounter is trying to prove that your ex-employee has the property. That could be difficult especially as your previous post indicated that there is some doubt as to the ownership of the box. I think that it is probably wise to also consult a solicitor if you feel that the commercial infomation on those cards is being used against your business. They will be able to advise you on whether there is a civil matter you could act on.

    I would be very careful about withholding pay until you receive the box. I would take legal advice before you do that. The last thing you want is to give the ex-employee any ammunition against you.

    I hope things work out for you.

  • elonaelona Forumite
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    I can see where your husband is coming from in his attitude - but that is because he sees it as a business problem to be overcome - you naturally see it as a personal betrayal by someone you trusted and thought that you were helping.

    I agree that you need to see a solicitor re use of business information by employee.

    Did you have a contract that says she cannot set up in business in same field or location.?

    Really it is the card files you want and not "the box"

    Hope things get sorted out for you.
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  • zzzLazyDaisyzzzLazyDaisy Forumite
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    shopbot wrote:
    I would be very careful about withholding pay until you receive the box. I would take legal advice before you do that. The last thing you want is to give the ex-employee any ammunition against you.


    Good advice! Unless there is a provision in the contract entitling you to deduct money from her wages in these circumstances (which is unlikely) then with-holding the money would amount to an unlawful deduction from wages. She could take you to an Employment Tribunal and you would be ordered to pay her the money. The fact that an employee has property belonging to the employer, makes no difference.

    The sting in the tail is that, even if the employee owes the employer money (apart from an advance of wages) if the employer unlawfully deducts money from wages, not only does s/he have to pay it back, but s/he also loses the right to recover the money by any other means - ie the debt is written off!

    Strange but true!

    Daisy
    I'm a retired employment solicitor. Hopefully some of my comments might be useful, but they are only my opinion and not intended as legal advice.
  • trace-jtrace-j Forumite
    783 Posts
    Sorry to hear what has happened to you.

    If you want the Police to get involved you need to be positive you haven't got anything so will need to check all your boxes ASAP.

    You could seek further advice from the Information Comissioner re Data Protection Act. I'm sure there would be repercussions if she tried to use this infomation for her own gains or disposes of it incorrectly. Should the worst happen re Data Protection and some come back on you, a call/crime number already lodged with the police will deal with it.

    Has this person approached you yet about the last pay cheque?

    The key issue is to make any complaints quickly.
    If you are also worried about losing suppliers and customers- have you had the phone/fax nos and mail redirected to your house? That way when these people try and contact you, you can start to rebuild your list. If you feel up to it you could try and keep a diary to see if any liablious comments have been made to your customers/suppliers.

    Keep us updated:grouphug:
    :idea:I got an idea, an idea so smart my head would explode if I even began to know what I was talking about:idea:
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