Mass Layoffs=Massive Employee Theft?

Nobody is currently getting laid off where I work, but lots of people are convinced that something bad will happen sooner or later. Interestingly, when discussing layoffs nearly everybody makes jokes about how they plan to walk off with company property in the event of termination. Mostly along the lines of: “When we get the axe, that copier is coming with me.”. Now, I’m sure all of this is gallows humor and meant in good fun, and I certainly don’t endorse theft in any circumstances.

However, I wonder what happens when office workers get fired in large numbers. Is there a significant amount of employee theft? Do people abscond with large, expensive items? If so, do people get caught and prosecuted? Anyone have any experience with this?

When my first dotcom collapsed at the end of 2000, anything that wasn’t nailed down was made off with. I myself took my desk copy of The Synonym Finder, but I still kinda wish I had less principles and walked with my Aeron chair. (Not really, but kinda.)

I think it depends on whether or not the whole place is going under and how likely it is to get caught. In places where some people are staying on I doubt that anyone would try to take the big stuff because it would be too obvious but in my experience everyone takes off with as many office supplies as they can get away with.

The company that laid me off last February went bankrupt. A few of us were asked to stay behind after production was stopped to take care of things like paperwork, disassmebly of machinery, financial matters, etc. Everyday I came in I noticed more and more stuff was missing, and I’m not talking about office supplies. I’m talking about monitors, computers, laptops, tools, raw materials. No one cared though. The owner was a non-presence, he lived in a different state, the GM had all but stopped coming into the office by that point, and the one person you could have said was in charge only cared about boxing up the files and getting them shipped to the owner.

I worked for a company called that went under a few years ago. We were rounded up and told the bad news in a company-wide meeting: The company had been sold, the buyers only wanted the name, and everyone was going to be let go (some of us had longer than others).

We were told at the meeting in no uncertain terms that we were not allowed to take anything home with us that day, including personal property. I remember one guy was pissed because he had to leave his Dreamcast up there over the weekend (this was a gaming video card company, so we had all kinds of fun stuff there). When we left the room there were security guards posted all over the place to make sure that order was followed. :eek:

That weekend I assume they took an inventory and made sure everything was “nailed down” as much as possible, and we were allowed to take our personal belongings home again on Monday.

I doubt the legality of that. I mean, if the guard forcefully tried to stop you from removing your personal property, there’d be problems.

Note that one of the largest business “security” firms has advised it’s clients that anyone giving “notice” should be terminated on the spot and escorted off the premises.

As an IT person, that was the standard. Once you become persona non grata, you have the capability to do too much damage to production systems. This was the case when you were fired, laid off, put in two weeks notice or any other type of dismissal. You were walked back to your desk with a box, you cleared up your stuff right then and there and were walked out to the front door. If you put in notice, you were paid for the notice even.

I think that is a stupid policy, personally. If you already have another job lined up, you already have plenty of time to steal or jack up the files before you give notice.

We did all that, as well as change all of the combination on all of the doors. All of their passwords were changed and access removed before they came out of the room. Everyone that had access to any systems that they did had to change their passwords also and all master passwords to law enforcement systems were changed. It was such a production.

I’ve seen pictures taken at a previous employer, from when they did a pretty large layoff. The “foyer/courtyard” in the middle of the building was littered with glass and broken office equipment (chairs, desks, cabinets, copiers, monitors, computers, and enough paperwork to conceal an elephant) from disgruntled employees.

We do something similar here. If one of the sales guys gives notice that he’s leaving, we ask if it’s he’s going to a competetitor; if the answer is “yes” or “I don’t want to answer that question,” the leaver gets paid immediately and walked off the premises.

I’ve lived through many a major layoff (RIFs as they like to call them) and theft was not an issue at all. But I think a lot of it will depend on how well-managed is the layoff process. For me, the layoffs were planned ahead of time – the time and place where people are informed of the bad news are planned, their computer access immediately terminated, boxes provided (or not, as sometimes stuff are boxed for them and shipped), and then an escort off the premises. There’s little chance for significant theft. All this was in an corporate office environment.

Where do you think I got my first copy of Photoshop?

I know of one case. A chain bookstore went bankrupt, and wasn’t handing out the last paychecks.

My buddy was going :eek::eek: :eek:and called me (I was nearby) but I just said “Well, your pickup’s there, and there’s more than a paycheck worth of books you have on your list? Just box 'em up and put em in your truck. Make sure you do it in full sight of the manager and inform him of why.” He did so, and the manager just started packing his own box.:smiley:

Not saying this was 100% legal, mind you.

I remember on the dotcom bubble episode of the Simpsons the workers were stripping the copper pipe out of the walls with their bare hands. Nice satire, or not too far off?

I have a friend that worked at Circuit City through the recent Chapter 11 and store closings. He said you wouldn’t believe the stuff that walked out in the final month of his store’s existence, and that it was happening on all levels.

When the white collar people at the telecom company I used to work at got laid off they were escorted out of the building by security. It’s my understanding that theft was very low during this process.

Now on the blue collar side it was very different. We were given 24 hours notice that lay offs were coming and since we worked off site the theft was rampant. I can’t estimate how much the company lost but I walked away with close to $1,000 of tools and I was on the low side.

“Convict” indeed. :rolleyes:

My company’s just had huge layoffs (well, huge to us) and they made sure that things were handled as well as possible for both the laid-off associates and the company. Security people were there in the cases where they expected trouble. There was no theft that I’m aware of.

I was at Visteon when they did a 30 percent layoff. . When a guy was called into the office to get broomed a couple security guards packed his stuff. Then they escorted him to the parking lot. They even carried the boxes for him.