Retail Theft Database: Antidote to Employee Theft

Retail Theft Database IDs Employees Accused of  Stealing

If a retail merchant believes an employee is stealing, besides getting fired, there is a good chance the employee’s name will be reported to a retail theft database. These databases are used by U.S. retail merchants to check on whether a job applicant has a history of stealing on the job.

Until recently, most employees accused of stealing did not know their names were reported to a retail theft database.

Oftentimes, employees are pressured into making a written confession during an internal investigation. That statement is then used as “proof” of the employee’s guilt, without regard to whether the employee is even arrested.

What that means is even if there was a criminal case, the case was expunged or sealed, the employee's name would still be in the retail theft database.

Although the Federal Trade Commission has received several complaints about these retail theft databases, to date, it has not ordered any be shut down. The FTC did ask one company to put employees on notice that any written statements they make can affect their future employment in the retail industry.

Paying for Stolen Merchandise

Did you know if you are caught stealing from a store in Illinois you can face civil penalties?

A couple years ago, I received a call from the mother of a college-aged daughter caught stealing from Nordstrom’s. I don’t recall what happened with the criminal case but several months later, Nordstrom’s sent a letter demanding monetary damages.  It relied on a section in the Criminal Code that allows for civil damages.

Most people are surprised to learn -- as I was -- that a retail merchant can bring a civil lawsuit for damages (the value of the stolen merchandise, plus an amount not less than $100 or greater than $1,000, and attorney’s fees and costs).  Moreover, no finding of guilt is necessary to seek civil damages.

Fortunately for the daughter, Nordstrom’s had not filed a lawsuit. Rather, it sent the letter hoping to scare the daughter into paying the money.

As the adage goes: Crime does not pay.