Abusers in the survey blamed their indiscretions on various things, from too many levels of approval, 46 percent, to a fear of being denied reimbursement, 43 percent, and unclear processes, 25 percent.
No matter the reasoning, Oklahoma City human resources expert Gayla Sherry and Allen Hutson, a labor and employment attorney with Crowe & Dunlevy, advise employers to adopt and follow zero-tolerance policies.
“Have clear written policies, stating that inappropriate use of company equipment and funds will result in discipline up to termination,” Sherry said. “Include in the policy that employers have a right to inspect workstations, lockers, bags brought into the company, computer equipment, cellphones, etc., and employees should have no presumption of privacy,” she said.
Sherry said to be sure to include a strong code of conduct, which clearly delineates what’s acceptable in terms of gifts that can be accepted from vendors, customers, and clients with examples of appropriate and inappropriate conduct.
“Lastly, ask your employees to be the eyes and ears for the company, and have an anonymous way, such as a tip line, to report violations,” she said.
“An employer can absolutely terminate an employee for stealing seemingly small-ticket items,” Hutson said. “Stealing is stealing.”
Employers that differentiate by the value of the item add a subjective aspect to discipline, which inevitably results in perceived favoritism and opens employers’ decisions to criticism, Hutson said.
To further deter thefts, employers can conduct random internal audits of departments whose employees have access to supplies, cash or bank accounts, he said.
“Finally, employers should pay close attention to disgruntled workers, as they may be more inclined than others to steal from their employer,” Hutson said.