What Can Employers Do Against Employee Theft?

Theft can happen anywhere and without warning — even within a company or workplace. To recover losses and seek justice for any individual victims, it’s crucial for employers to be aware of the legal actions at their disposal if such unfortunate incidents do occur.

Building a case for employee theft

According to Article 308 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) of the Philippines, theft is committed when — without using force, intimidation, or violence, — a person takes personal property belonging to another without consent. Philippine jurisprudence dictates that the elements of theft are:

  • (1) the taking of personal property;
  • (2) the property belongs to another;
  • (3) the taking away was done with intent of gain;
  • (4) the taking away was done without the consent of the owner; and
  • (5) the taking away is accomplished without violence or intimidation against person or force upon things

If a case of theft is suspected and an employee wants to pursue legal action, evidence must be presented by the employer to show there was probable cause or reasonable belief that a suspected employee was the perpetrator.

The difference between theft and qualified theft

However, when theft is committed by an employee, lawyers often advise employers to invoke qualified theft (Article 310, RPC). How is the latter different from the relatively simple act of theft?

Qualified theft is a specific type of theft defined under the Revised Penal Code in the Philippines. It is committed when the theft is committed by a person who has legal access to the property which was stolen, such as employees stealing from their employers. This type of theft is considered more serious than simple theft because it involves a breach of trust and abuse of authority.

In simple theft, the thief does not have any legal access to the property stolen and takes it without permission. The penalties for simple theft are not as severe as those for qualified theft, which has harsher penalties because of the added element of breach of trust.

In the case of qualified theft, the employee is usually charged under Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code, which specifically addresses theft committed by employees against their employers. This provision prescribes higher penalties and can also have implications for the employee’s future job prospects and reputation.

In conclusion, the main difference between qualified theft and simple theft is the presence of a special circumstance, such as the theft being committed by an employee against their employer. This distinction leads to harsher penalties and consequences for the offender. 

While the basic principles remain the same, the crime becomes qualified theft if:

    • The crime is committed by a domestic servant; or
    • The crime is committed with grave abuse of confidence; or
    • The stolen property is a motor vehicle, mail matter, large cattle, coconuts taken from a plantation, fish taken from a pond or fishery; or
    • The property is stolen during a fire, earthquake, typhoon, volcanic eruption, vehicle accident, civil disturbance, or any other calamity.

The second bullet point above is the main provision that usually applies to cases of employee theft.

This is because an employer has inherently bestowed a degree of confidence and trust in an employee upon hiring. By virtue of the employment relationship, it’s reasonable to posit that such an employee has been entrusted to execute their functions dutifully — all while ensuring proper use of business property and other assets.

Since there is an added layer of grave abuse of confidence, the penalty for qualified theft is two degrees higher compared to simple theft.

Can a suspected employee be automatically fired?

After the filing of a criminal complaint, an employer may place an employee under preventive suspension. This is a legal remedy afforded to employers to prevent any continued damage to the business or company while investigations are underway.

Since both crimes are considered just causes for dismissal or termination, an employer can terminate the offending employee due to serious misconduct under Labor Code Article 282. However, it’s not possible to automatically fire an employee if suspected guilty of either qualified theft or theft. The employer still needs to follow procedural due process of notice and hearing prior to termination.

It’s important to note that the outcome of the criminal case cannot be invoked in a labor case and vice versa. In other words, both cases will be treated as separate — even though the parties in the two cases are the same.

Contact seasoned lawyers from Duran & Duran-Schulze Law

For more questions on employee theft or other labor-related concerns, get in touch with professionals from Duran & Duran-Schulze Law.

To schedule a consultation, call us at (+632) 478 5826 or send a quick email to info@duranschulze.com.




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