Companies and organisations can be reluctant to accept there is, or will be dishonesty in the work place and I have advised that this become a senior management agenda issue.
What avenues are available when you identify a dishonest employee? There may be a different approach for a criminal issue such as a theft or fraud to that of an HR issue of long term false absenteeism, bullying or harassment and potentially a different view with the regular issue which I see where an individual has stolen information, usually data or a database and left in breach of the contract and is using that data whilst working for a competitor or having started their own business.
It may be the preferred method to involve the Police in a theft or fraud, drugs in the workplace or drink driving allegations and they may assist with your investigation. They have no requirement to assist in the HR issues and highly unlikely they will become involved in a theft of data, citing this as a civil internal issue.
Notwithstanding the difficulties in the Police investigating criminal offences in the workplace there are many occasions where they and the company are reluctant do so. You may need to establish further evidence and the company may wish for the investigation to be kept ‘in house’ with the intention of a ‘quiet’ dismissal being the resolution sought.
How then does the employer gather evidence to confirm the dishonest employee?
Within the private sector there are a range of investigation avenues available including the use of Solicitors, HR support and private investigations. In many legal circles in which I move there are many of us that believe that the majority of criminal investigations can be completed without the Police assistance. We do need the Police to make any arrests and take away the individuals liberty and to conduct property searches, but investigative tools such as surveillance, observations, computer forensics, including search and seizure for devices, interviewing of suspects and witnesses, general forensic examinations, such as handing writing samples can all be conducted lawfully by external suppliers. There is clear methodology, procedures and legal frameworks to adhere to but investigations into dishonest employees can be swift, dynamic, thorough and proactive.
What is the purpose of the investigation? To build a complete file of evidence to hand to the Police. To find sufficient evidence to dismiss the individual. Are you seeking evidence for a civil recovery of the value stolen?
Whether the dishonesty is criminal based, or HR based the investigative routes are the same.
An employee long term falsely absent from work. A surveillance operation to show their movements and activities to confirm they are ‘skiving’. Fraud within a business: maybe a computer forensic investigation supported by interviewing of employees and a suspect. Theft of data by an employee who has just left your company: surveillance operation to show where they are going, who they are associating with and their complete movements, supported by a computer forensics examination of their company laptop and mobile phone. Disturbing notes left at a colleagues work station: consider a handwriting examination.
All such investigative capabilities are lawful and there are some slight variants when investigating in the Public or Private sector but essentially the process is the same.
The reality is that the majority of investigations are conducted in house, usually by HR, but consideration should be given to utilising outside legal or investigative support to gather primary evidence. Evidence that cannot be refuted. Evidence that puts you as the employer in the strongest position possible. Evidence that will support and encourage a Police investigation into a theft, fraud, drug cultivation, or evidence that makes a simple dismissal of an employee from the organisation possible, with little chance of being tied up latterly with the time and cost of a tribunal.