As an employer, if you feel wronged by an employee, it can be very tempting to take the law into your own hands. This is especially true when you are also the business owner.
But – the case detailed below shows how this can go very wrong. It proves that you must always follow the Acas Code of Practice and act in a reasonable manner – even though you may not wish to!
A perfect example…
Simon Cremer paraded light-fingered Mark Gilbert through the streets of Witham, Essex, wearing the handmade cardboard sign saying: “THIEF. I Stole £845 am on my way to the police station.”
He took him to the police station after discovering the father-of-three had written out a company cheque to himself and taken it to Cash Converters in October 2008.
Gilbert, 40, admitted the crime and was let off with a police caution while his boss Mr Cremer was hauled into court facing a life sentence for false imprisonment until the case against him collapsed.
To add insult to injury Gilbert then SUED Mr Cremer for his “humiliation”.
And the flooring firm boss has now had to pay out £5,000 in compensation and £8,000 court costs to the worker who stole from him.
Mr Cremer, 47, said: “I think it’s absolutely disgusting that he was even able to sue me after he had stolen from me to be honest. I don’t want to give him a penny after what he did, so it really sticks in my throat.
“He stole from me yet he is the one who is walking away with the money. It makes me so angry.”
Thief Gilbert started legal action against his boss in a bid to claim for two years of lost earnings and the “distress” he suffered.
The floor-fitter’s claim had been for the trauma, distress and psychological help he said he needed after the incident.
The case had been due to come before a civil court yesterday but dad-of-two Mr Cremer said he could not risk the expense involved.
The boss reluctantly paid an out of court settlement to Gilbert because he said it would cost him more than that to fight the case in legal bills.
He was also saddled with Gilbert’s legal fees leaving him with an £8,000 legal bill for the case.
Mr Cremer, who lives with his partner Karen Boardman, 45, who has been battling breast cancer in Little Maplestead, Essex, said: “It would have cost me £25,000 just to go to court, so I had no option but to settle out of court. I could not afford to take it to court, so there was no other option.
“It would financially ruin me, it would break me. I would lose my business and I would risk losing my home because I would have to remortgage it.
“I am not happy with him getting a penny of my money. This has left me with no faith in the justice system whatsoever – absolutely none.
“I can’t really afford a payout like this – times are hard for the business.”
Gilbert, formerly of Colchester, Essex, has since moved away from the area and is believed to be living in Bristol.
He admitted writing the cheque out to himself and cashing it in claiming he was owed wages that he wanted to use for a holiday and his boss was too busy to write it himself.
But staff at Cash Converters were suspicious and contacted Mr Cremer who called Gilbert into work to confront him along with three other workers.
Speaking after the incident in 2008 Gilbert said he feared he was going to be killed as he was bundled into the back of a van.
Mr Cremer, who runs In House Flooring in Witham, was stunned when Gilbert was released with a caution for theft yet he was charged with false imprisonment after the incident — which carries a maximum life sentence.
Mr Cremer and his brother Andrew Cremer, 43, and two colleagues were hauled into court but to their relief the case against them was dropped in December 2008.
Consensus HR’s comment…
Ultimately, the employer should have known that his behaviour would backfire on him.
Whilst the employee was in the wrong, the business owner couldn’t justify the actions he took. Correct procedures should be in place and followed, ensuring that the employee is dealt with appropriately and the employer is not put at risk of legal action.