What's Considered Stealing at Work?

According to an AOL Jobs survey, almost half of the respondents (43 percent) admit to taking things from work to keep for personal use, though most of those report taking only small office supplies of relatively low value. A smaller percentage (18 percent) claimed to have stolen items valued over $50. People who are married or have children are less likely to steal.

AOL Jobs took to the streets (well, the virtual streets of chat boards and Facebook) to ask employment experts and "Joe Employee" if they thought taking a pen from the workplace is considered stealing -- and if not, when does it become stealing?

Boston-based attorney Joe Stanganelli, who specializes in employment law, said: "Stealing a pen from work is stealing. There is no 'de minimis' requirement. If it is company property, and you knowingly take it with the intention of keeping it for yourself, you have committed larceny (or, depending on the circumstances, embezzlement), even if it is just a pen. That said, the real issues are proof and enforcement. You may be walking around all day with a company pen in your pocket for convenience. If you bring the pen home with you, who is to say whether you did it intentionally or not? Bringing home a company notepad might be a slightly harder one to justify, but still within the realm of reasonably possible innocence. Bringing home a stapler, a mouse pad, a package of coffee from the break room, or an entire box of pens or notepads is much harder to justify, however."

Here is what other people had to say:

  • "I think it becomes stealing when you take something of value. I just always thought it was routine practice when employees take paper or pens. We would also make personal copies and send faxes. We all did it, so I figured it was the norm."

  • "When I worked at the front desk of a gym, a trainer came out and took a protein bar and started eating it. I asked him if he was going to pay and his response was that the company didn't pay him enough or treat him well, so he felt he was entitled to take it without paying."

  • "If it is not yours and you take it, you are stealing. I have terminated people for stealing time, punching other people's time cards, stealing diapers, copy paper, televisions sets, laptops, cell phones and salt and pepper shakers. I have terminated bartenders for not ringing in drinks and pocketing the money, and I have terminated others for theft of services, including an employee who spent 69 hours online in two weeks with 90 percent of it on Facebook!! I have terminated others for faking expense reports and double-dipping on reimbursements. I really do not see the difference if you take $1 from your employer, $10 or $100; it is all stealing."

  • "A father came home from work to find his wife berating their son. 'Can you believe it? He stole a pen from his classmate!' the mother said. The irate father shouted, 'Where did you learn to do a thing like that? Your mother and I are honest people. And why steal a pen? Don't I bring you enough pens from work?' I think this guy's opinion is clear."

What do you think constitutes stealing at work?

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