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Employee Theft: Am I Stealing if I Take Home Work Supplies?

Posted on in Theft

Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers, employee theft, workplace theftStealing supplies from work may seem to some people like a perk of the job—even an action that no one will notice. However, this type of employee theft can be considered a crime. Taking money from your workplace is embezzlement. Workplace theft is a common problem for employers and retailers, and many have systems in place to detect it.

Whether it’s pens, paper, electronic devices, DVDs, thumb drives, petty cash or merchandise, taking home assets you do not own and haven’t pay for from your place of employment could result in your being terminated from employment and subjected to criminal charges, fines, possibly jail time, and civil restitution claims for treble and punitive damages.

Reasons Why Employees Steal from the Workplace

There are several reasons why employees take home office supplies and other valuables including the following, chief among which are:

  • Pressure from other sources. The employee may have fallen on hard times financially;
  • Opportunity. The employee has access to the valuables and has a way to conceal the theft; or
  • Rationalization. The employee will justify the theft by thinking that he or she is underpaid or that the business can absorb the loss, or others are doing it, so why not me.

Industries Where Workplace Theft is Especially Common

The retail industry suffers from a huge amount of employee theft. Retailers in this country lose about $60 billion annually due to what is called in the industry as “shrinkage.”

Shrinkage includes employee theft, shoplifting, damage in transit or in store, administrative error, vendor fraud, and cashier errors that benefit the customer. Employee theft has been identified as one of the single biggest causes of loss to retailers.

Another field that commonly experiences workplace theft is construction. Workers, some possibly thinking that the supplies are “leftover,” or items to be junked or discarded, will take materials and tools from the work site for personal use. There tends to be a low level of oversight in this industry, which makes this type of theft easier to accomplish. But even taking items like scrap metal put into a dumpster at a job site can be considered theft, as contractors oftentimes contract to recycle job refuse.

Wisconsin Law on Workplace Theft

Under Wisconsin’s general criminal theft law, sec. 943.20, Stats., the severity of the crime is based on the value of the goods allegedly taken:

  • If the value of the property does not exceed $2,500, the accused will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed nine months in jail.
  • If the value of the property exceeds $2,500 but does not exceed $5,000, the accused will be charged with a Class I felony, which is punishable by a fine not to exceed $10,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed three years and six months in prison.
  • If the value of the property exceeds $5,000 but does not exceed $10,000, the accused will be charged with a Class H felony, which is punishable by fine not to exceed $10,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed six years in prison.
  • If the value of the property exceeds $10,000, the accused will be charged with a Class G felony, which is punishable by a fine not to exceed $25,000 and/or imprisonment not to exceed ten years in prison.
  • Entry onto a construction site is a criminal offense under sec. 943.15, Stats.
  • Retail theft is prohibited under sec. 943.50, Stats., with significant additional civil penalties under sec. 943.51.
  • Theft of computer information, software, equipment and components is penalized under sec. 943.70, Stats., with significant additional civil penalties.

Contact an Experienced Milwaukee, WI, Workplace Theft Charges Attorney

Our law firm has vigorously and effectively defended many people accused of theft, embezzlement, computer crimes and other property offenses occurring at the workplace. Our attorneys understand the law and what defenses may be available to you.

GRGB has also successfully represented employers, retailers, and others who have been victimized by workplace thefts.

As with any criminal matter, you should always contact a knowledgeable and qualified attorney before speaking with police, investigators, detectives, or prosecutors. Call the experienced Milwaukee criminal defense lawyers at Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP at 414-271-1440 for consultation and to set up a meeting with our team today.

Sources:

Chap. 943, Wis. Stats.

M. Hudson, Top Sources of Retail Shrinkage The Balance, 1/3/17

https://www.forbes.com/sites/nicoleleinbachreyhle/2015/10/07/new-report-identifies-us-retailers-lose-60-billion-a-year-employee-theft-top-concern/#4f5dbefb80eb

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