help my friend get unfired!
January 2, 2010 10:12 PM   Subscribe

For my friend: She was working as a waitress at a restaurant. She handled money. 40 dollars went missing. Owner accused her of stealing money. Friend was consequently fired. Only other person who handled the money that day was the owner's daughter... what can she do?

My friend works as a waitress at a sushi restaurant in a somewhere in BC, Canada. She handled money that day, and the only other person who handled money was the owner's daughter. Of course, the owner would not accuse her daughter of stealing money from the restaurant, so my friend got the blame. She didn't take the money, there was no proof, and when my friend tried to talk to the owner about this, the owner told her that she did not even want to talk to my friend. So now my friend is angry, and not without reason.

Now, I would tell her to just cut her losses and find another job. She's only doing it part time while she's attending university. But the thing is, the owner knows more than half the people who operate in the city, and its likely that because of her influence, my friend will not be able to hold a job here.

I'm a little skimpy on the details, and this is everything that my friend told me. I would like to help her, but I don't know how. This is a pretty shitty way to start the new year, so I'm trying to make it a little better. Any advice? Thanks!
posted by veol to Work & Money (17 answers total)
What's the objective here? To get the daughter to admit to the theft? At this point, I'd say chances of that are vanishingly small.
posted by telstar at 10:30 PM on January 2, 2010

The only way I can see out of this is for your friend to say "I didn't take any money, I don't know how or why it is missing, but I know I didn't take it. I will, in order to smooth this over, give you $40 since it seems to be important to you."
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 10:36 PM on January 2, 2010

When I was in high school (in Ontario) every year the cops would come to school and talk to us about some legal topic of relevance to our age group (bicycle laws, your rights if arrested, your rights if stopped by the police, etc. -- kind of the high school equivalent of when the cops come to kindergarten to tell you to look both ways and do street-proofing stuff).

Anyway, right around the age people start getting part time jobs they did employment law and I remember this specifically: An employer can only (in ontario, back when I was in high school) penalize you for money missing from a til if two circumstances are true A) You must be the absolute only person who had access to the til and B) You must have signed a contact saying that if you were the only person with access and the money was missing you would be penalized.

So, if your friend were working in Ontario back when I was in high school, she was fired illegally. In BC? I would look up your local employment law. Now whether there's anything to gain by pushing this is another story and something she should consider, too.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 10:40 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Your friend should *immediately* write a polite letter to her former employer denying that she took the money and that she will pursue legal remedies in the event the employer tells anyone that she did. Make three copies: send one to the employer via regular mail, one via certified mail and keep the third. The employer's subsequent and predictable silence will be a tacit admission that there was no basis to accuse her of theft.

Back when I was fresh out of law school (in my previous life as an attorney) I'd sometimes do what I liked to call my "$50 letter." Here's how it worked: A potential client would come to me with a problem like the one you described -- something not huge, but important to the client. I'd say, well, you may not want to throw a lot of money at this situation by initiating a lawsuit, but for fifty bucks I'll write a stern letter on your behalf on firm letterhead. In small matter this *always* did the trick. I say this because if she has a friend or a relative who will write the letter I described above on law firm letterhead, heck, she might even get a severance package ;)

One more thing -- with all due respect to dirtynumbangelboy she should NOT offer to pay back money she didn't steal!
posted by Toecutter at 11:00 PM on January 2, 2010 [28 favorites]

I was just about to write exactly what Toecutter did.

If your friend sued the owner for unfair dismissal, she'd likely get a significant settlement (but it would be an incredibly arduous process). If the owner badmouthed to other prospective employers, all without any material evidence, your friend would have a VERY strong case for a libel suit that would ultimately put the owner out of business.

Again, lawsuits are not for the faint of heart. But the threat of a lawsuit could very effectively shut the owner up, which is your friend's main concern.

Absolutely DO NOT follow dirtynumangelboy's advice. This would be tantamount to admission of guilt.
posted by randomstriker at 11:12 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was, I believe, unfairly fired once. I couldn't make it in to work because of a severe snowstorm. My boss said that everyone else made it in, and I said they didn't live where the streets weren't yet plowed, and that I was risking my life to come in. He fired me. I called the regional manager and he blew me off (and come to find out, my boss told him that I said it was a waste of my time to come in, which I never said - I said I was risking my life, not wasting my time). But what I realized afterwards is I really didn't want the job back, because then he'd just be looking for any other reason to fire me, or else make my life miserable in the meantime.

I would not give the owner $40 because that could be seen by others, especially the owner, as an admission of guilt. And your friend should not be out $40 when she did nothing wrong. What happens next time when $100 goes missing? Will the owner say "pay up or you're fired," or just fire her, now confident that she is the thief?

I would take my chances trying to find another job. Maybe that boss' opinion isn't thought of quite as highly as your friend imagines. Just because the owner knows "half" the people in the city, doesn't mean they all like her.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:16 PM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

dnab is wrong, Toecutter is right.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:21 PM on January 2, 2010

If she did try to give the $40 "back" there's no way she would get her job back. Not only would the owner think she took it, but she would think she might take more money in the future.
posted by delmoi at 11:25 PM on January 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Write the letter as stated above.

There's a third possibility-could the drawer have been short before her shift? I open and close drawers regularly and in a family owned company more than once I've had to track down missing money that was supposed to be in the drawer. No hankypanky, just miscommunication between the owners.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 11:57 PM on January 2, 2010

DO NOT give the money back! Total admission of guilt. If one of my staff offered to pony up money that went missing I'd be watching them like a frikkin hawk the whole time.

This is likely also not the first time the daughter has lifted cash from the till, and odds are good she'll do it again. Just tell your friend to move on and find somewhere with less nepotism.
posted by Jilder at 2:42 AM on January 3, 2010

My interpretation of the suggestion to return the $40 would not be to keep the job, but to keep the owner's mouth shut so I can find another job.
posted by gjc at 5:32 AM on January 3, 2010

I was in this situation once. Luckily, I had worked as a cashier in a different store prior, so I knew what stores needed in order to have a hope of proving that the cashier in question was indeed stealing. Also note: I am not an employment lawyer (or any kind of lawyer at all). Just someone who was once a cashier at a federally-run (National Park) gift store (the first one I worked at), and then in an Oregon store.

Did your friend "count in" the register, herself? Did she sign a "count-in" sheet with the amount of money in the register before starting work? After finishing, did she "count out" (balance the register with regard to the day's receipts rung up on it)? Did she sign a paper to that effect?

If the answer is "no" to either of these questions, the store owner has no proof that she was the thief. She has to count in AND out the same register, in order to establish an unbroken responsibility for that register. It's worth noting that the Nat'l Park I was at did in fact fire a cashier for stealing, and used those records as proof. She'd taken a hundred dollars and skipped town! Also worth noting... something like 40 cents would have been forgiven. Human error can account for that sort of amount relatively easily, though it is something where they'd have spoken with the cashier and asked him/her to be more careful.

Like I mentioned, I was wrongly accused of theft at that second store. I did not count in, and I did not count out the register, furthermore I was not the only person to use it, as was recorded in the store's cashier schedule! It was an eerily similar story, since the other young woman who was cashier on that register just happened to be the store manager's daughter... In any case, I went above her head to general management, calmly reminded them of store policy that cashiers do not count in or out registers, nor do we sign anything to that effect, and that we did not log on or log out ourselves - our managers did, so even the cash register logs weren't proof that a certain person was on a register after a certain time. Furthermore, I'd clocked out four hours before "my" register had been turned off. I presented them with a letter for my employment file that repeated these points. I was "un-fired" (got my job back) on the spot and the manager was disciplined.
posted by fraula at 6:32 AM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

so much for my reading comprehension. I saw the end-of-sentence period before the ". 40 dollars" and thought 40 cents. Yeah, not quite the same... :) Also, although the National Park I worked in was in the US, the accounting/documentation trail needed should be the same.
posted by fraula at 6:35 AM on January 3, 2010

Why would she want to go back to a job where the boss is such a crappy guy?
posted by joshrholloway at 7:27 AM on January 3, 2010

Write the letter as Toecutter suggests. Do not give $40 that she didn't take, and don't ask for the job back, not worth it. The letter should be more than sufficient to shut up the owner.
Chances are the owner's daughter is dipping into the till and it won't be the first or last time an employee has borne the brunt of her theft.
posted by arcticseal at 9:18 AM on January 3, 2010

Why would she want to go back to a job where the boss is such a crappy guy?

Because she needs money?
posted by kylej at 9:32 AM on January 3, 2010

Thanks for all the advice, guys!
I'm going to forward the link to this thread to her. Cheers!
posted by veol at 3:45 PM on January 3, 2010

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