Small Businesses Hesitant to Report Employee Theft

A recent study on small businesses reporting employee theft to authorities may surprise you.  The research studied surveys of 314 small business owners in the Cincinnati, Ohio region and covered an eclectic mix of industries including manufacturing, service, restaurant, retail and finance/banking.  30 in-person interviews were also included.

The study’s author, Jay Kennedy, published his results as a University of Cincinnati criminal justice doctoral student.  His research shows that most small business owners decline to solicit police involvement when an employee is caught pilfering.  64 percent of small businesses have experienced theft by an employee although just 16 percent opted to report the incident to police. The study sheds light on the downfalls that could occur, should  you not include some sort of background check or pre employment screening in your company’s hiring process.

Four main reasons were offered as to why employers don’t report theft.

Victim-less Crime

Many owners won’t involve authorities because the crime isn’t seen as involving enough victims to be worth the time, trouble and/or resources required to advance through court processes.  Firing the employee is viewed as adequate enough.

Legal Counsel

Legal representation often advises against moving forward premised on required costs outweighing financial outcome.  The study points to one company that lost $200,000.  After the employee was successfully convicted, they were put on probation and required to pay just $50 a month in restitution.  Essentially, the business will never come close to receiving full restitution.

Relationships

Often, an employee that is caught stealing has worked at the business for years and become embedded with the business owner emotionally.  They sometimes are regarded as family or friend and have spent some amount of leisure time together outside work or know each other’s families.  The report claims that owners often want to put the incidence in the rear-view mirror and move forward as soon as possible.

Ineffective Justice System

Small business owners may view the criminal justice system as being incompetent or futile.  The study reports that employee theft often involves complex finances and a typical police officer isn’t viewed as having the skill set to deploy adequate intervention.  Additionally, small business owners often believe police forces are inundated with more stereotypical duties — such as patrolling the streets.

Cash was found to be the most common item stolen — making up 40 percent of small business theft.  Cash thefts involved in the study fell between just $5 up to $2 million with a median amount of $20,000 and Kennedy suggests the more money stolen has a direct relationship to the level of trust in the employee involved — both concurrently increasing.

Furthermore, Kennedy questioned a common theory that employee theft is based on lack of personal financial resources — pressing medical issues or other desperate circumstances.  Instead, he says the crimes are premised in what he calls “lifestyle enhancement,” with the convicted unable to account for how the money had been spent.

Besides cash, other items stolen were products (18 percent), production materials (12 percent), tools (8 percent) and equipment (6 percent).  Most thefts were found to have taken place over time, in lieu of a single occurrence.  61 percent of the thefts ranged from two weeks up to 20 years with the median being 16 months while most schemes were only uncovered by luck.

60 percent of employees identified as most likely to take part in employee theft were general or first-line in nature, meaning personnel at the lower rungs of the business that didn’t hold management or supervisory responsibilities.  Approximately 20 percent were managers/executives while the rest were made up in small numbers of accountants, bookkeepers, receptionists, secretaries and billing professionals.  Kennedy says only 2 percent of cashiers, who typically handle cash, were likely to take part in employee theft.

The damaging repercussions of employee theft is a process no business owner wants to go through.  ESS’s experience in the criminal background check process goes beyond the baseline.  Our reputation for  an advanced background check process can include hair drug tests, license verification or even 5 and 10 panel drug tests and offers employers the transparency to make the right choices.  We can cater to whatever unique safeguards your company requires.  Finding the best employees is a process and ESS is here to help you along the way.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *