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California - Employee takes "free" items - is that considered theft?

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  • California - Employee takes "free" items - is that considered theft?

    Our receptionist places the office depot orders, and along with those orders, there are offers for "free" items, they usually range between $20 - $50...

    She takes them without saying anything to management... can she be fired for this or is this a fire-able offense?

    We should have a raffle for those items each month as a treat to the employees... but since she takes them, there isnt that option.

  • #2
    You can fire her for wearing green socks.

    Legally, "theft" is taking something that doesn't belong to you without the owner's permission. Personally, I'd fire her tail.
    I don't respond to Private Messages unless the moderator specifically refers you to me for that purpose. Thank you.

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    • #3
      Thank you!!

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      • #4
        If they free items are tied to purchasing something, then it's theft, because the purchase is made by the company. Or you can just fire her for bad ethics and stupidity. Both are legal.
        I am not an attorney, and don't play one on TV. Any information given is a description only and should be verified by your attorney.

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        • #5
          Third vote for firing her.

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          • #6
            Agree, you can fire her for any reason at any time except a reason prohibited by
            law (ie age, religion, gender...) or unless there is a binding employment contract to
            the contrary.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/At-will

            I would terminate.
            Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

            Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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            • #7
              While I do not disagree with anything said, has anyone told her to stop doing it? Has anyone told her that this is against the rules? And if not, are you planning on also firing her boss for not doing their job?
              "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
              Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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              • #8
                I agree with DAW. Admittedly, you shouldnt have to ask an employee to stop "stealing" but if it is something that has always been allowed previously, then maybe she isnt considering it theft. According to at-will you can fire her straight out; I just think it would be more fair to the employee.

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                • #9
                  also in agreement with DAW

                  ...and what type of "free offers" are we talking? are they tangible items or the ability to purchase something that she may not even realize is an issue? I think that someone should speak with her before jumping on the "fire her ASAP" bandwagon...

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                  • #10
                    I would have a conversation with her and let her know that those items should be for the company's benefit, not hers. She may not even think of it being an issue since they are "free."

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                    • #11
                      I can't tell from the OP if where OP falls in the chain of command. From the first post, to me it sounds as if OP is a co-worker unhappy with the receptionist getting things.

                      If the OP is a co-worker then she can speak with a manager on it. However she may not like the answer she is given.

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                      • #12
                        Good point. We don't really know who the OP is - "management" or co-worker.
                        Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

                        Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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                        • #13
                          From the wording, I would guess that the OP is not management.

                          Fire her. That is thief of company resources.

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                          • #14
                            Making a personal phone call is theft of company resources. Using company photocopiers and computers is a theft of company resources. Even if the employee is using their own cell phone, they are still "stealing" company time. I note that we seem to be very selective about just when we are getting upset about the so-called "theft" of company resources.

                            I am not saying that the employee cannot be fired. I am not even saying that the employee should not be fired. But I saying that if no one bothered to tell this employee to stop taking this action prior to firing the employee, then this employee's supervisor also needs to be fired. Because the supervisor sitting on their lazy backsides without actually supervising is another person "stealing" company time by getting paid for not doing THEIR job.

                            Firing one supervisor for not supervising sends a much stronger message to the remaining employees then firing some receptionist does. And randomly firing some low level employee for some action that traditionally was allowed and that the employer could not be bothered to actually tell people to stop doing sends a very different message then "this employee was caught stealing".

                            Firing people should be a last resort, IMO, not a first resort. At some point, supervisors need to be required to actually supervise. And management needs to act less like small town sheriffs trying to act tough and more like people actually trying to run a business. If telling the receptionist to stop doing this solves the problem, we avoid having to hire another employee, and we avoid bleeping off the other employees. Saves the company money and gives a better result. If instead the employee ignores the instruction, then at that point terminate for cause. Other employees do not regard management as making arbitrary decisions. And management still gets to pat themselves on the back for showing everyone how tough there are. A win-win situation all around.
                            Last edited by DAW; 12-16-2010, 05:04 PM.
                            "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away".
                            Philip K. **** (1928-1982)

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by GotSmart View Post
                              From the wording, I would guess that the OP is not management.

                              Fire her. That is thief of company resources.
                              I am usually a tough cookie about theft but I can't work myself up about this issue. I have seen the freebies given by office supply companies and they are usually not too great, maybe a bag or a new type of pen. At most I would say a final warning not to do it again.

                              Unless OP has spoken with each and every member of management, there is no way of knowing if management knows and doesn't care about the issue. Just because OP feels the items should be raffled does not mean managment feels that way.

                              I find it odd that the OP is aghast at the receptionist getting the items but would be perfectly fine with them going to another employee (being raffled). So really the problem has nothing to due with company property being taken without permission but jealousy that it isn't being given to others.

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