WORKPLACE THEFT AND BREACH OF TRUST

Stealing from one’s employer is a very serious matter which can result in severe consequences for those who are caught and convicted. Those who are caught stealing from their place of employment will almost certainly be terminated. In addition, their employer may report them to the police and to the relevant professional regulatory body if the employee was a regulated professional. Theft from one’s employer is seen as particularly aggravating due to the position of trust employees hold.

While there is no specific criminal offence for stealing from one’s employer, there are several different offences such an individual may be charged with. Those caught stealing from their employer may be charged with any of the following offences:

Most commonly, those who are caught stealing from their employer will be charged with theft. The value of the items taken will determine whether the accused is charged with theft over $5,000 or theft under $5,000. Crown counsel will treat the employer-employee relationship as an aggravating factor in the case, due to the accused’s position of trust.

Theft is a hybrid offence meaning the Crown may elect to proceed summarily or by indictment depending on the nature and severity of the allegations. Where the allegations are serious, the Crown will often proceed by indictment. In all other cases, the Crown will proceed summarily. This election will determine, among other things, the maximum penalty that may be imposed on the accused should they be convicted. The maximum penalties for those who are convicted of theft range from two years less a day imprisonment to up to ten years’ imprisonment in the most serious cases.

Having a complete understanding of the Elements of the Criminal Offence, Your Rights and the Consequences associated with a Criminal Record is necessary before any legal decisions are made.

Breakfast Television: Role of Mental Health in Court Proceedings.

Global News National: Bruce McArthur will not serve consecutive sentences – here’s why.

CBC Radio: Interview with Mayor John Tory and Jordan Donich on CBC Radio.

CTV News National: Handgun ban supported by majority of Canadians: Nanos survey.

Global News: Should Canada ban Handguns? Debate stirs after Danforth shooting.

Global News: How difficult is it to get a legal handgun in Canada.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Fraud at Work?
What is Possession of Proceeds Obtained by Crime at Work?
Is the Court Process Different if the Theft occurs in the Employer/Employee Context?
-Police Discretion to Lay Charges
-Crown Screening of Charges
-Resolution of Charges
What if I Stole from my Employer and I am a Regulated Professional?
Will a Conviction for Stealing from my Employer affect other Aspects of my Life?

What is Fraud at Work?

In some cases when an employee is caught stealing, they will be charged with fraud. This is generally the case where the employee has taken active steps to cover up their actions, including using deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means. The value of the fraud will determine whether the employee is charged with fraud over $5,000 or fraud under $5,000.

Fraud is a hybrid offence meaning the Crown may elect to proceed summarily or by indictment depending on the nature and severity of the allegations. Where the allegations are serious, the Crown will often proceed by indictment. In all other cases, the Crown will proceed summarily. This election will determine, among other things, the maximum penalty that may be imposed on the accused should they be convicted. The maximum penalties for those convicted of fraud range from two years less a day imprisonment to up to fourteen years’ imprisonment in the most serious cases.

What is Possession of Proceeds Obtained by Crime at Work?

In some cases, an employee who is caught stealing will be charged with possession of proceeds obtained by crime in addition to theft or fraud. This charge may be laid where the police are able to recover the stolen items or proceeds from the stolen items in the employee’s possession.

Possession of property obtained by crime is a hybrid offence meaning the Crown may elect to proceed summarily or by indictment depending on the nature and severity of the allegations. Where the allegations are serious, the Crown will often proceed by indictment. In all other cases, the Crown will proceed summarily. This election will determine, among other things, the maximum penalty that may be imposed on the accused should they be convicted. The maximum penalties for those who are convicted of possession of proceeds obtained by crime range from two years less a day imprisonment to up to ten years’ imprisonment the most serious cases.

Is the Court Process Different when Theft occurs in the Employee/Employer context?

Generally, when an employee steals from their employer and the police are involved, the employee will be charged with a criminal offence. The fact that the theft occurred in an employer/employee context may affect the path of the case through the criminal justice system.

When Police Lay Charges

When police are called due to a possible crime, they have a significant amount of discretion regarding whether or not to lay charges, and which charges to lay. Once police are contacted, they will assess the situation to determine whether or not a crime has occurred. If they determine a crime has occurred, they will assess the facts to determine which charges to lay. Once charges are laid, the case will be sent to the Crown’s office for screening.

Crown Screening

Once the Crown’s office receives a file, they will review it and conduct a “screening” of the charges. This screening will determine whether the Crown will proceed with the charges, whether they will elect to proceed summarily or by indictment when dealing with hybrid offences, and what their position on sentencing will be. All of this information will be recorded in what is known as an “Adult Screening Form” which will generally accompany initial disclosure.

When determining which election to make and what sentence is appropriate, the Crown will consider all the aggravating and mitigating factors in the case including the value of the items or money taken. Where a significant amount of money or goods was taken or where the allegations are particularly shocking, the Crown will proceed by indictment, which significantly lengthens the possible maximum penalties for those convicted. In all other cases, the Crown will proceed summarily.

Resolution of Criminal Charges

The fact that a theft occurred in an employee/employer relationship will also affect how the case is resolved. In some cases involving minor thefts, the Crown may approve an accused for a diversion program. Diversion programs allow those accused who minor offences to complete a period of probation and/or any other conditions imposed by the Direct Accountability Office after which their charges will be withdrawn. This allows the Court to impose a sentence on an accused without giving them a criminal record.

It is not uncommon for those charged with low level theft offences to be granted diversion. However, those accused of stealing from their employer may not be eligible for diversion as a result of the position of trust they held with the individual they stole from. Since Crowns have considerable discretion regarding their position on any given case, such an aggravating factor may cause the Crown assigned to the case to disregard diversion.

If an accused is convicted of fraud or theft in an employee/employer relationship, the Court will also view the relationship as an aggravating factor, which may result in a more severe sentence.

What if I Stole from my Employer and I am a Regulated Professional?

Regulated professionals such as doctors, lawyers, nurses and accountants are held to a high ethical standard due to their position of authority and relationship of trust with the public. When a regulated professional is caught stealing from their employer there is the added complication of the governing regulatory body.

In most cases, when a regulated professional is caught stealing from their employer they will be terminated, criminally charged and reported to the appropriate regulating body. The regulatory body will then open an investigation into the matter. If they determine that the individual’s behaviour rises to the level misconduct the regulating body may punish the offending professional. In almost all cases, regulatory bodies can suspend, place limits or conditions on, or remove the professional’s license and their ability to practice in their chosen field.

Will a Conviction for Stealing from my Employer Affect other Aspects of my Life?

Yes. Those who are convicted of theft or fraud in an employment context will face consequences in other aspects of their life in addition to any criminal sanctions or professional consequences for regulated professionals. Those who are convicted of a criminal offence, including fraud or theft, will often face consequences in various aspects of their lives including:

  • Employment
  • Travel
  • Immigration

Individuals who are charged with stealing from their employer will almost always be terminated from their position of employment upon being caught. Those who are convicted will often have difficulty finding employment in the future. The majority of employers now require a criminal background check be run prior to hiring a new employee. In many cases, employers will not hire an individual with a criminal record. This can make it difficult for those convicted of theft or fraud to attain gainful employment in the future. Such a conviction may also limit such an individual’s ability to work or volunteer with certain vulnerable populations.

Those convicted of stealing from their employer may also face difficulty traveling outside of Canada. Many countries throughout the world refuse entry to those with a criminal history. This is especially true of the United States, who regularly turns away travelers with even minor criminal records.

Being convicted of a criminal offence, even a minor criminal offence, can also impact an individual’s immigration status. Citizenship, Immigration and Refugee Canada may delay or deny citizenship applications for those who have been convicted of a criminal offence.

If you have been charged with stealing from your employer, or suspect that you might be charged, it is important to protect your rights. Donich Law has experience defending a wide array of individuals charged with various theft, fraud and possession of proceeds obtained by crime offences and regularly obtains positive results for our clients. We have experience negotiating directly with employers as well as with the Crown and combine risk management and litigation to ensure the best outcome for our clients.

416-DEFENCE | 416-333-3623