Employee Theft - Protecting More Than Property
By Andria Ryan Partner, Fisher & Phillips LLP | December 14, 2014
The problem of employee theft in hotels is an age-old problem. Businesses lose billion of dollars each year in employee theft. And hotels, by nature, present numerous opportunities for employee theft from guests and the house. Theft in a hotel can take many forms – from identity theft to credit card fraud to theft of merchandise and guest property. No employer hires an employee thinking that the employee is someday going to steal. Hotels need to take steps to prevent theft and be cautious in taking action against an employee after a suspected theft. Both have practice and legal implications.
Prevention in All Forms
Take a thorough look at your hotel's security measures and processes. Ensure that your guest room locking systems and room safes meet general industry standards. Review, implement or update employee policies related to 1) package passes to control removal of property from the hotel, 2) lost and found procedures, which should be strictly enforced and 3) guest room access by employees. Consider an audit by a security expert to review your security procedures and protocols - in action.
Another criminal trend that can have a major impact on the hotel industry is identity theft. Many hotel employees have access to guest identity and credit card information. Make certain that your hotel is in compliance with the payment card industry security standards. Implement best practices related to credit card and identity documents: purge unneeded credit card data, do not imprint credit cards, ensure that only partial credit card numbers are displayed, carefully monitor charge-backs and carefully limit the employees who have access to guest identity and credit card information.
Prevention also includes proper employee screening. One of the best ways to prevent theft by your employees is to not hire a thief. Consider conducting criminal background checks on applicants and employees with access to guests, their property and hotel property. Consider credit checks on applicants and employees who have access to financial assets. And employee screening should not be finished once the employee has been hired. Require employees to report any criminal convictions during the course of their employment and conduct periodic criminal background and credit checks during employment.
Criminal background checks pose some legal risks at any stage in the employment process. In 2012, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued updated guidance on the use of criminal background checks in employment titled, Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although Title VII does not prohibit the use of criminal background checks, the EEOC cited concerns that employers could use arrest and conviction records to unlawfully discriminate against job applicants based on their race or national origin. A hotel's criminal background and credit check policy should be tailored to comply with the EEOC guidance and state and local laws that restrict or prohibit criminal background and credit inquires.