Retailers Amass Worker-Theft Databases, May Include Cocerced Confessions


Facing a wave of employee theft, retailers have amassed vast databases of workers accused of stealing and use the information to keep employees from working again in the industry, reports the New York Times. The repositories of information often contain scant details about suspected thefts and routinely do not involve criminal charges. The information can be enough to scuttle a job candidate's chances.

Some employees who submit written statements after being questioned by store security officers have no idea they admitted committing a theft or that the information will remain in databases. The databases, which have tens of thousands of subscribers and are used by major retailers like Target, CVS, and Family Dollar, are aimed at combating employee theft. Data from 2011 put the loss at about 44 percent of missing merchandise, valued at about $15 billion, says the National Retail Federation. The databases, which are legal, face scrutiny from labor lawyers and federal regulators, who worry they are so sweeping that innocent employees can be harmed. The lawyers say workers are often coerced into confessing, sometimes when they have done nothing wrong, without understanding that they will be branded as thieves.

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