Accusations of employee theft can be embarrassing and scary. The penalties for property crimes in Illinois are already quite strict, and the state regards employee and workplace theft as some of the most serious cases of theft.
However, you should not feel like you are backed into a corner by accusations. Illinois has put laws and protections in place for employees who have been accused.
In this post, we’re going to detail more about these laws so that you can be prepared for what comes next after an accusation.
What Could Happen If You Are Charged with Theft at Your Job
Illinois has one of the lowest felony thresholds in the country. Even if you have been accused of stealing property that is just over $500, you could face felony theft charges and up to five years in jail. If the property is considered “government property,” you could face felony charges for stealing less than $500.
If the theft involves using the company’s (or another fiduciary’s) money for your personal gain, you may also face embezzlement charges.
Companies will not always press criminal charges for employee theft, but that does not mean you will not face penalties. You may have to pay restitution for the stolen items – or even lose your job.
Illinois Employees Have These Rights after a Workplace Theft Accusation
Right to protest due to discrimination.
If you believe that the accusations were made due to prejudiced opinions, you may have to do some investigating. There are many anti-discrimination laws that protect people from negative treatment due to their sex, gender, religion, race, or sexual orientation.
Right to privacy.
How did the accusations come about? If management saw an email on a company database, they may be fully in the right to read that email. However, if they tapped your voicemail, things might get tricky. Similar to the Fourth Amendment, if you believe that the “evidence” against you was obtained through unlawful methods, you may be able to fight back with the help of a skilled Chicago defense lawyer.
Right to refuse a lie detector test.
Management might challenge you to a lie detector test, but you do not have to consent immediately. You have the right to refuse or ask for a handful of prepared statements about the test and why it is being given to you.
What to Do After You’ve Been Accused of Workplace Theft
Accusations can be proven wrong. Be respectful and calm throughout the entire process. Anger can often come off as defensiveness, and the people you speak with will think you have something to hide.
Speak to your management team.
Don’t keep accusations floating around the gossip mill. If you hear accusations of theft through the grapevine, sit down and have a one-on-one talk with management. This talk will give you more information as to what the management thinks you have stolen, what you can expect in the future, and what next steps you need to take.
If you know that you did commit workplace theft, this conversation can give you a chance to confess and ask for forgiveness. When you can settle on an agreement for restitution outside of pressing charges, you will save yourself a lot of grief. Criminal charges should be a last resort.
Speak to HR and request to view your file.
If you are not comfortable speaking with management, or would like to bring in a third party, reach out to your human relations officer. You have a right to view your employee file, which should have information spanning back to when you were first hired. (This right is given to all Illinois employees through the Illinois Personnel Record Review Act.) You may be able to find information on when suspicions first arose and whether or not management has been monitoring your behavior.
Ultimately, while being accused of Illinois workplace theft is frightening, the most important thing to remember is that you have both rights and options.
About the Author
Sami Azhari has been working as a lawyer since 2007, after receiving his Juris Doctor from the Michigan State University College of Law. He has handled numerous state and federal cases, and is known throughout the Chicago and Rolling Meadows area for providing his clients with high-quality, skilled representation. He has been recognized by SuperLawyers, the National Trial Lawyers Association, and other notable organizations, and has spoken at a number of legal conferences.