Workplace theft includes the stealing, use, or misuse of an employer’s assets without the employer’s permission. Some of the “assets” that can be considered stolen by an employee include:
- Money: This is what most people think of in employee theft. An example would be taking a few bucks from the cash register while performing transactions.
- Time: If you bill your employer for time that you were not working, it can be considered theft of time. Although it does not involve physical theft of an object, it can still be considered a form of theft.
- Supplies: Another common example of employee theft is taking resources, such as office supplies or food from the restaurant you are employed at, without paying for it and without the employer’s consent.
- Merchandise: This would be classified as taking goods that are intended to be sold at your workplace.
- Information: Theft of information can include stealing ideas for a design, stealing trade secrets, etc.
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While some of the above “assets” are not tangible, they can result in financial losses to the employer. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an estimated 75 percent of employees will steal at least once. Half of that 75 percent will steal repeatedly.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates employee theft costs between $20 billion and $40 billion a year for American companies. While this is a startling statistic, it’s not an excuse to unfairly prosecute workers. Houston theft attorney Lisa Shapiro Strauss explains more on theft in the workplace.
There is another category of work theft that many of us know — embezzlement. This refers to the stealing of money or property that belongs to another person by someone who is in a position to manage or monitor the assets.
The key component of an embezzlement charge is that the person accused of embezzling has access to the property being stolen but does not have legal ownership.
A common example of embezzlement is a CEO of a large corporation who steal funds that belong to the company. Another example would be a stockbroker who takes the funds he has been entrusted to invest in the market and uses them for himself. On a smaller scale, this could also be a bank teller who takes money belonging to bank clients. In all examples, the workers have access to the funds but they have no legal ownership.
The penalties for embezzlement follow those listed earlier for all theft crimes in Texas, and are based on the value of what’s stolen. If aggravating factors are present for a person convicted of embezzlement, a higher penalty may be applied.
Aggravating factors include:
- The victim was 65 years or older.
- The victim was a nonprofit organization.
- The defendant was a public servant.
- The defendant held a contractual relationship with a government entity.
To explain further, here is an example of how an aggravating circumstance could enhance the penalty for embezzlement. If a worker stole $50 from his employer, it would qualify as a Class C Misdemeanor and carry a penalty of no more than a $500 fine.
However, if the worker was employed by a nonprofit organization, this would be considered an aggravating circumstance and may mean that the next highest penalty would apply, which is up to 180 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.
Answers To Your Workplace Theft FAQs
After you have hired a lawyer, there are three main stages of a theft case.
1. An independent Investigation by your attorney
2. Devising a Strategy for your defense
3. Then there may be several different Court Appearances
Yes, fraud falls under theft laws in Harris County. There are many different kinds of fraud, including Identity Theft, Securities Fraud, and Insurance Fraud.
The first answer to this question is to hire an experienced lawyer. Next, do not make any statement to the police or prosecuting attorneys. If possible, gather evidence that can prove your innocence, and get the names of witnesses who might be able to prove your innocence.
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As a former prosecutor, Lisa Shapiro Strauss has the unique ability to evaluate a case from both a defense and a prosecution perspective. With more than 15 years of experience handling criminal cases in Houston, she has the skills and knowledge necessary to help you navigate the Texas legal system and all stages of a theft case.
If you’ve been accused of theft in the workplace, contact Houston theft lawyer Lisa Shapiro Strauss, Attorney at Law, today for assistance.