What can I do if my employer accused me of stealing & fired me?

The accusation of theft is only as good as the proof of the crime. An employer who terminates an employee on suspicion of theft may incur significant civil liability in the form of unfair-dismissal lawsuits. In the absence of evidence, it's difficult to show good cause for a termination based on the mere suspicion of theft.

At-Will Employment

Every state in the country except for Montana has at-will employment laws. This means your employer can terminate your employment at any time without notice. Your employer doesn't need proof of your theft to terminate you, but he does need proof if he intends to file a criminal complaint. You may also apply for unemployment benefits after your termination, though your employer will probably contest your application. You have the right to a formal unemployment hearing in which your employer has to prove your theft under penalty of perjury to convince an arbitrator to reject your application for unemployment benefits.

Covenant of Good Faith

Eleven states, including California, Massachusetts and Delaware, have covenant-of-good-faith laws that provide exceptions to at-will employment regulations. These regulations assume an employee will deal fairly with an employer and vice versa. A covenant of good faith is comparable to a presumption of innocence in a criminal proceeding. Failing any proof, your employer must assume you're innocent of theft. You may have recourse to sue your employer in civil court for unfair dismissal if your employer terminates you without any tangible evidence of the suspected action if you work in a state with good-faith-in-employment regulations.

Employment by Contract

If you're working under a contract of employment, you may be able to sue your employer for breach of contract if she terminates you for theft without any proof. An employment contract usually contains the policy violations under which an employer may terminate a contracted employee. Consult your employment contract to see if your employer needs to show proof of your violation to terminate the agreement. The accusation of theft may not be strong enough to legally terminate your contract.

Defamation of Character

The accusation of theft can damage your credibility in the business community, especially if you work in areas of financial management and loan creation. An unfounded termination for a fictitious offence can severely hinder your ability to secure new employment in your career field. A defamation of character lawsuit can force your former employer to provide a public apology for the false accusation and require him to pay you compensatory damages, punitive damages and damages for your pain and suffering as a result of your termination and damaged professional character.

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About the Author

Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.

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