Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Loss Prevention Is Lying To You

So you're called into the back room. It's a tiny one with no windows and only one door. In the room is someone who identifies himself as being from Loss Prevention. He seems so nice. He tells you he's there to help you save your job. If you only tell him what he wants to hear, you can go back to work.

He's lying! Don't fall for it. Everything you say can and will be held against you. Be careful.

He asks you some questions that make it clear you're being accused of doing something wrong. Maybe it's stealing from the company. Maybe just punching in wrong. Maybe a violation of some policy. He says he's trying to help you, so you tell him everything. Yes, you did use a plastic spoon from the deli and didn't pay for it. Yes, your boss gave you a candy bar and said it was going to be destroyed anyhow, so you took it and ate it. Yes, you used your employee discount to buy something for your best friend. Yes, you forgot to punch in, so you went in and wrote down your best estimate of the time you came in.

That wasn't very careful, was it? You've just confessed to doing something wrong. Maybe even a crime. But he's so nice. He tells you the only way you can save your job is to write down everything he tells you to write.

He's really lying now. Say no! Tell him that you will be glad to write your own statement in your own words, and tell him you'll provide it to him the next day. If he says you need to write what he says or be fired, you're already gone. Don't believe him for one teeny, tiny second.

He tells you to write down what you did, only the way he puts it sure makes it sound worse than it was. He conveniently leaves out how your boss told you to do it or said it was okay. He leaves out how others of, say a different race or sex, do it all the time and suffer no consequences. He has you write down that you understand you violated company policy. Then he tells you to sign it.

Tell him to pound sand. Do not do this. If you do it, you're fired, and possibly arrested.

Let's say you believe this guy and write it all down. What's going to happen next? He grabs it, maybe leaves the room for a couple minutes, then tells you that you're fired. You're escorted out like a criminal.

If you are called into a meeting with Loss Prevention, that's a meeting where you need to be very aware that you are being accused of doing something wrong and you're probably being fired. They are not your friend. When in doubt, tell them you want to leave and speak to an attorney. Yes, they can fire you for leaving, but that's way better than admitting to something you didn't do, or admitting to a crime. You can always write up your response to the accusations calmly after you've had a chance to think straight later and send them to HR.

26 comments:

  1. What a rant....not sure where you were wronged along the way, but talk about "out in left field."

    With a bit of objectivity you may also have found that Loss Prevention meets with employees to help them--at least I think that is what I was doing over the course of dozens of sexual harassment investigations where scared store clerks were being belittled, coerced, and threatened by management and other staff. I can assure you those clerks were very pleased they spoke with me and that staff changes resulted in them working in a safer, more professional environment.

    I know it doesn't make for the drama you apparently seek in your writing, but the reality is Loss Prevention (and they are not all "guys" by the way) can help many staff members who speak with them.

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    1. Well, Vince, I'm glad to hear you had good intentions when you investigated things like sexual harassment. However, I've had way too many people tell me they were put in a tiny room and told they were saving their jobs, only to find that it was all a lie. Sure, sometimes Loss Prevention guys (and gals) can help if the employee is the victim, but it's a serious mistake to treat them as anything but very dangerous.

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    2. Vince what donna says is what happen to me when i first started with my job. 3 hours i was questioned i was told to sign a written statement they wrote. i was told the had a video . i stood my ground i had done NOTHING wrong . i had taken a free lipstick that i was suppose to take to wear at work . no food no water . they finally let me go. i didn't think it was fair that i was rated like that .

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  2. I just had a startling similar situation happen to me at my work place. Except they tell me I owe them an amount of money they didn't even provide, for doing something I was never told was wrong, and that he equaled to stealing. Something that as a member of management, I and my coworkers have always done. And I haven't been fired. Everything was fishy, but I was scared and alone with the LP officer in the office. I was made to agree, and now that I've had time and a clear head, I know the whole thing was wrong.

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  3. Hello Donna,
    This is a very interesting article you have written; subsequently, finding a probable solution to these "internal(s)" or employee(s) would be the next step. Unfortunately, many retailers designate loss prevention employees with ambiguous chain of commands concerning employees. Additionally, there needs to be guidelines/policies to differentiate an employee who has done absent minded minor infractions such as forgetting to punch in and out; rather, have LP concentrate more on the veteran employees and managers that are defrauding their retail establishments in the tens of thousands of dollars +.
    I would like to see minor infractions like the forgetting to punch in and out, or ringing up your best friend for her birthday STOP, and instead be handled my their managers or supervisors on the floor. LP should concentrate more on external, and TRUE internal thefts! What I mean by internal theft is someone who is knowingly and intentionally defrauding the company for tens, sometimes even hundred of thousands of dollars.
    Think of it like this, an LP associate/manager/district whatever, will spend most of the time interviewing, hence achieving "admission of guilt" for minor policy infractions that are deemed criminal under duress!
    That's not cool at all!

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  4. Hey Donna, would you know if for example LP fired a person from a company, would other companies that person applies for be able to see everything that happened between him and the company he got fired from?

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  5. I accidentally deleted this comment by Kristin Hernandez (sorry!):

    Wish I had seen this before. But I got screwed entirely and I did nothing wrong I feel like I was set up and I never even stolen anything I was just forced to do alot just to walk out of there and he threatened me several times. He even made up scenarios that didn't even make sense. I did call him out on a couple of his lies. He even told me he had me on tape, but refused to show me said evidence. What makes me different from a customer? cause your lp employee shows the customers she caught what they did on the video tape. So why couldn't I see it? This blog or article or whatever is helpful for someone in my shoes.

    Everything this person said is dead on and what I experienced just the other night was worse. I just wish I had seen this sooner.

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    1. From my personal experience as a manager who called in LP, as an employee the company CAN make you talk to loss prevention. You also DO NOT have to be shown evidence (but police do before they arrest!). You have the choice to leave the room, and if your exit is blocked it can be considered entrapment. Most places; however, consider leaving a LP meeting to be abandonment of your job. Once you are no longer an employee, LP cannot question you about your time ad an employee.

      I was the second in the meeting where I called LP down to conduct. I spent two weeks compiling a 1" thick file on someone who had only worked a few months. In my case, the employee was questioned, admitted to more than I had discovered, and was given the chance to give a written statement. When the written statement came, the employee had to agree that they were giving this statement in their own words of their own free will, they had the right to NOT make a written statement, and they were not permitted to write their statement until LP and I left the room to remove any and all accusations of duress, etc.

      My LP are all retired state police. They interview like SP, and they know the laws. I wish more people here had a better and more well trained LP department.

      In my company there is only 1 way LP investigates, and that's when someone notices a problem (could be the corporate office or in most cases the store manager) and it can be proven. If this happened at my work, you'd need to put less beef on the LP guy, the manager who caught you, and realize you screwed yourself.

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    2. i have a question my store is closing going out of business next week , i am out on medical leave because of injury. before i left the store to go to my dr apt LP said they want to talk to me i told him i had to go to a dr apt. i could talk to him when i got back. my dr took me off work and i will not be back till after we close . do i still have to talk to LP i wouldn't be an employee any more

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    3. My daughter is a minor can lost prevention at her workplace question her without me present she is 17 in texas

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  6. My husband is currently having to agree to a probation agreement for a crime he didn't commit because of questionable LP practices similar to what is described above. And we have learned of other people who have had similar things happen. Is there any sort of movement working towards changing the legality of these LP practices? In our case, my husband was basically kidnapped for almost 6 hours (LP took his personal car keys) and told he couldn't leave until he signed a statement written as the LP employee directed. This coerced "confession" is the basis of why we must plea (taken out of context, what is literally written is quite damning), but had it been obtained in the same way by law enforcement it would have been inadmissible. Surely we are not alone in wanting to see the actions of LP fall under more scrutiny. I wish, so very much, that we had known our rights sooner!

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    1. I was recently contacted by loss prevention at my place of employment now this guy was a piece of work he started by telling of an employee who has taken money from one of the location and it for her son school then the next question he asked is what was my reason for taking the money I was shocked I never even been accused of anything. He showed me a pice of a video about 1/2 seconds the dm was present and so was the manager that I had accused of forgery after he singed my signiture to a legal documents was there with a I got you look on his face starring me down then after they braraded me over and over they took me out from the storage room into the store were now I was not only in front of them but the customer as well and tells me I need to write a statament he tells me what I need to write everything he was saying was to admit to everything we just disscussed he was in and out all three of at one time or another was looking over my shoulder the LP guy came be snatched the statement that I had been writing and began to reads it and determined it was all wrong and said I needed to 're-right it the way he he said to write but he made one mistake he laid down on the desk the original statement and I grabbed while he wasn't looking and placed in in my pocket iChat already wrote most of the statement it was three pages long I am now in possession of the original and the statement they cohersed me into writing what would you do

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  7. today i was questioned my LP DM and anther guy and a union rep I sat there dening what they was accused me of and asked to see the so many videos the had but was refused not once but six times. I was told i could leave till i signed papers so after having no sleep due to a sick child in the hospital and a infant I was extremly sleep depreived and only wanted to leave so I wrote what they told me too now im having second thoughts is it possible they don't have video of anything, which is why i was denied such video to veiw and how can i fight this now

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  8. why can they deney showing you video of you committing a crime if you ask to veiw it.

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  9. Can lp write or type your statement then tell you to sign?

    Can lp tell you they have you on tape but they really dont?

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  10. Just out of curiosity if you are meeting with LP and they try to tell you you cannot leave without writing something down couldn't you at that point call the police on a cell phone and tell them you are being held against your will while being coerced into a confession of false allegations by people who are NOT the police.

    As far as I know this is kidnapping and the LP guy maybe surprised when you silently dialed 911 and the police show up and you tell them what he was doing and you feared if they found out you called you didn't know what would happen and here is the key words "Officer while he was looming over me trying to force a false confession I feared not only for my job but for my life. He said I could not leave this room without signing a confession and since I did not intend to sign a confession of something I didn't do I could only assume I would remain in the room indefinitely and to my knowledge a human body can only survive without water for 3 days and I already went 2 days without water and this is my 3rd day. I can say with certainty it would kill me to force me to stay in this room."

    You may feel at the mercy of them but all you need is a more devious mind than them. If they are gonna lie about you to try and phase you out of the company to make room for a higher up's son or so forth then make sure that you make them rethink their position on the matter. Force them to look elsewhere because you fully intend to go down kicking and screaming and if your going down then everyone else in the place has already stabbed you in the back and it is every man for themselves. Don't get hung up on trying to save someone else because they were a nice person the whole time. Every question say No I have not done that but so and so did it.

    I am in a bit better position where I work. I always make sure I am covered. My wife comes in and helps in front of everyone and everyone covers it up. She is not employed there and she is disabled. To take me down may make me loose my job but it should yield a 6 figure settlement for my wife since they all ask her to do things for them without paying her. As a corporation that is better known as slavery and slavery has been abolished for years I even got DM's and RM's on the hook for it so if they ever try to pull anything the entire lots going down with everyone and the corporation will be shelling out big for slave labor since her handicap is of the mental variety and I am her caretaker they cannot claim she is of sound mind to have known any better. That is what we all call a "Check and Mate motherfuckers"

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  11. I got caught stealing from home depot I am four months pregnant loss prevention took me to the back room in hand cuffs I took them off grabbed my daughter out the stroller they try to yank her from me by her arm she's 8 months old they put me in a choke hold and slammed me on the ground and put there knee in my back and I'm four months pregnant what do I do.

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    1. Darra, I think home depots lp program is a joke, if they want too fight ppl they need too be fighting in Iraq or somewhere, I recently seen a friend get all messed up, broke ribs, busted his face & all...transported too the hospital, I called later about his court dates.....DISMISSED!! PLZ keep me posted on your situation!

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  12. Hey guys my lp is coming in tomrw for a meeting with my whole store because our shrink is so high.... note my store never closes with their registers so the money just carries over to the next day and we also have mice and they have ate some of the phone cords and computer cords so that is also messed up. So if our store does not shut down for couple days we are so very short but we really aren't but on corporate end we are stealing a whole lot of money but they wont come and fix the situation and

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  13. I think I'm gonna get fired even though I stole from a different Walmart far from my job. Will they notify them?

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  14. Maybe if you followed the correct policies or did not steal from your employer you would never have to have a meeting with LP and would keep your job! You people amaze me. They are not going to call you in for a meeting with out having the proper evidence. Own up to your actions.

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  15. They did me. No such evidence could exhist because I did not steal, but it's a question of why not if. I said there is no why cause I did not steal, but if I didn't would I be willing to pay the $20. Why would I pay when I didn't take anything. You'd think if they had my best interests at heart then why couldn't video evidence be as much for my protection as theirs.

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  16. Can LP from a company turn a case to the authorities because you did not show up to speak to them ? While you quit like two days ago ? can they still question you regarding an investigation in the store you use to work at ?

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  17. Vince - you are commenting on the WRONG post. Your comment is totally and completely irrelevant. Of COURSE Loss Prevention "helps" victims. BUT, that's only because Loss Prevention's sole purpose for existing is to victimize someone. Without a victim, you wouldn't have a job. And let's be clear, the author's post was NOT a "rant" as you called it. A rant is a complaint in the form of an emotional outburst which doesn't welcome challenge or opposition. The author's post was practical, sensible, and timely advice on how to protect yourself from those who seek to turn someone into a victim at the expense of turning someone else into a criminal. Can't have one without the other. And you Vince, can't have your job without both.

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  18. Okay so I have a question I had talked to my manager she told me and another lady I worked with there was no cameras in our job . The chick started to steal I made a report to my manager who stated yes we do it all the time . So I went to higher ups then they said there are no cameras no proof well I needed work shoes bc my boss was on my ass she told me she would pay for my shoes. Also told me that we throw away all damages in the box . So I figured since I had seen her do it and it was okay for management and she was my manager I trusted her . Well she set me up was giving me bags of shoes before "throwing them away" for me and my family . Boxes an all . 2 weeks after speaking with the man from loss prevention they called me in .... I figured it was to give them my statement about the incident of the other girl NO ! THEY ACCUSED ME OF STEALING mind you that claim no cameras . If there where they woulda seen her giving them to me. They never called the cops told me I stole 5,000$ worth of stuff with out calculating it then fired me . Took my last 2 checks well they told me if by March I didn't pay off the remaining 400$ they would press charges . Is this possible ? I'm now homless and jobless with 2 kids I even brought back all merchandise. BUT I was the only one fired the man I worked with even quit bc the manager stayed and she was starting to do the same shit to him . If this is the case why was I the only one fired for 1 for 2 why wasn't there cameras to prove the evidence . For 4 why weren't the cops called if u had proof I stole && @ that amount why wasn't I sent to jail ? I no longer live in that county no longer have that phone. So what's guna happen i cant pay it .

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I appreciate your comments and general questions but this isn't the place to ask confidential legal questions. If you need an employee-side employment lawyer, try http://exchange.nela.org/findalawyer to locate one in your state.