What Is an Occupational Crime?
An occupational crime occurs when an individual takes advantage of his legal occupation in order to commit an illegal act. Theft, for example, is considered to be a form of occupational crime when one takes advantage of his employment to steal from his employer. Occupational crimes generally fall into the larger category of white collar crimes. White collar crimes are almost exclusively financial in nature and are generally committed by those with respectable social standing. Both are generally nonviolent and aimed toward personal gain rather than harming another person.
There are two main traits that characterize almost every occupational crime. Occupational crimes almost always result in financial gain to the person committing the crime. Such crimes also harm the perpetrator's employer, usually through the loss of finances or assets. An occupational crime may be as minor as the theft of office supplies or as major as large-scale embezzlement of company funds.
Occupational crimes are closely related to both workplace crimes and occupational deviance, but there are significant differences that separate the three forms of crime. Occupational crime almost always involves a desire for financial gain or at least an attempt to avoid financial loss. The term "workplace crime" is usually used to refer to standard criminal activities, such as assault or rape, that are committed in the workplace. The opportunities provided by the nature or location of employment do not necessarily contribute to the crime in cases of workplace crime. Occupational deviance involves inappropriate workplace behavior such as sexual harassment or drinking during work.
The ability to commit occupational crime is not dependent on one's position within a company, but some crimes can be more easily committed by people with significant status. A waiter, for example, could misreport tips or pocket money instead of putting it into a cash register, but he likely could not embezzle significant amounts of money, as an individual with access to a company's corporate accounts could. Greater crimes, though, have greater stakes; an individual who steals millions of dollars will suffer a much greater penalty than one who steals office supplies.
The consequences for occupational crime vary greatly based on the employer and the extent of the damage to the company. Minor crimes such as petty theft may not even result in termination from work; they could simply result in suspension. More significant crimes resulting in greater damage to the company can result in termination, fines, or even prison time.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is an Occupational Crime?
Criminal activity in the context of someone's job is known as occupational crime. Usually, the perpetrator is a professional or well-trained individual who has access to resources that can be used to commit a crime. Copyright infringement, bribery, embezzlement, and fraud are all examples of occupational crimes.
Who typically commits occupational crimes?
People who hold positions of trust or authority often commit occupational crimes. This can include business executives, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals with access to confidential information, essential resources, and large sums of money. Sometimes, even low-level workers can exploit their position to commit a crime.
What are the consequences of committing occupational crimes?
Occupational crimes can have serious consequences. Depending on the severity of the crime, the perpetrator may face criminal charges, fines, and even imprisonment. Additionally, they may be subject to civil penalties, such as paying restitution or damages to any victims of the crime.
How can businesses prevent workplace crimes?
Companies can stop workplace crimes by establishing reliable internal controls and monitoring systems. These safeguards must include methods for preventing, identifying, and investigating potential criminal behavior. Also, it is critical that staff get enough training on the policies and procedures of the business and that there be clear repercussions for transgressions.
What steps may individuals take to prevent crimes at work?
It is possible to prevent occupational crimes in many different ways. Any potential workplace risks, such as having access to private data or large sums of money, must be identified. Workers should be alerted to suspicious activity and report it to their manager or authorities. People must also follow the policies and guidelines of the firm and be mindful of any potential conflicts of interest.
I didn't realize how much of a burden and financial loss occupational crime causes employers until I worked for a retail store.
The manager there told me that most of the theft incidents they have experienced in the past actually came from people who worked there rather than customers who shopped at the store.
I had heard the same thing from a restaurant owner that was a friend of my family. He said that he lost huge amounts of money because of an employee that stole alcohol from the restaurant.
Before I heard about these incidents, I always thought that theft came from people outside of an establishment. But it turns out that it's not the case usually. Occupational crime is a huge problem and loss for establishment owners.
My sister-in-law had been having financial trouble for quite some time. She worked as a bank teller, and she told me how tempting it was being around so much cash all day. All she would have to do is sneak some of it away into her purse, and she would no longer have to worry about being able to pay her electric bill and rent.
She said that she seriously considered it. Luckily for her, one of her coworkers decided to try it before she did. They caught her on the spot, and seeing that drove fear so deep into my sister-in-law’s heart that she no longer wanted to do it. The lady’s occupational crime sent her to prison for years.
The guy I share a cubicle with had a problem with stealing that started off small. He needed some paper clips for home, so he took a box. He did not feel bad about it, so he decided that he should get all of his supplies from the office closet.
He began taking boxes of sticky notes. Then, he progressed to stealing a new stapler. Once he moved on to expensive ink cartridges, the boss noticed. He saw the guy walking to his car with one, and he suspended him without pay for a week. He also told him he had to pay for all that he had stolen in order for no charges to be filed.
My friends and I once caught a head waiter stealing from a new waitress. She had given us great service, and we left a good tip on the table. He came along and scooped it up.
One of my friends saw our waitress shoot the guy a nasty look, but she did not say anything to him. My friend walked up to her and told her that he saw the guy steal her tip. He gave her a $20, and she was very grateful.
Then, my friend went to the manager and reported the occupational crime. The guy had been acting as trainer to several new staff members, and he thought he deserved their tips for the first few days. He was wrong, and he was also fired.
I know a girl who committed an occupational crime while working for a photography studio in Florida. Her job description varied, because they had let some people go, and some of their duties became hers.
Besides doing graphic design and selling packages on the phone, she was responsible for putting the cash into the safe at the end of every day. What her employer did not know was that she had always struggled with stealing. She had been caught shoplifting in the past, but the store owner did not press charges, so she had no record.
She would take $50 here and there before placing the money in the safe. After she had taken over $1,000, her employer noticed and confronted her. She got convicted and had to serve three months in prison, plus seven in house arrest.
I know it’s minor, but I used to really have major problems with folks who stole office supplies. Part of this is from pure integrity – it’s just wrong.
However, part of this hatred is purely selfish as well. I despised going to get a few pens and sticky notes out of the supply closet to find that Sally Sue had taken them all to her daughter because school was starting.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I never accidentally ended up with a paperclip or an ink pen that was technically the office’s. Heck, I think that happens to everyone at some point.
But I surely never raided the office’s supplies because I didn’t want to pay for my kid’s school stuff either.
At the risk of sounding dishonest, I’ve got to say that I don’t see any harm in wait staff eating food for free within reason. Maybe this is because I was a waitress for a few years. I know that it is backbreaking work for very little pay.
It is true that you can have some really good nights and make good money, but there are many nights where it seems like there’s no one but stingy humbugs eating dinner.
I’m sorta of this mind set, though I’m not sure if it’s the right one or not. Pay your employees better and they’ll be less inclined to take your food. Heck, at least give them a discount.
After all, the restaurant owner is making a whole lot more dough off of their employees broken backs than they are. Let him give a little.
@Azuza - I think a lot of minor crimes go on at offices and restaurants. For example, a lot of people in offices make personal use of office supplies and equipment. While this also doesn't seem like a big deal, it is technically stealing.
In my industry, which is the insurance industry, there are more serious crimes to be committed though. For example, calling someone who is on the Do Not Solicit list is a crime. It's also a crime to run someone's credit report without their permission. While these things also don't seem too serious, they are and they can result in criminal penalties.
I must say, when I was a waitress I witnessed a lot of minor occupational crime, not to mention occupational deviance. Restaurants can be crazy places to work!
One of the most common crimes I witnessed was stealing. Where I worked, most of the employees would eat the restaurants food without paying for it. As long as you were friendly with the cooks, you could just ask them to make you something and not ring it up. While this seems minor, I'm sure the restaurant lost money because of this.
I also witnessed a lot of drinking. A lot of the servers would drink in the break room and the cooks were almost always drunk, courtesy of the bartenders. And yet, somehow, the restaurant was pretty successful and ran fairly smoothly!
@Mutsy - I wanted to add that I have also seen employees use credit card information and become involved in identity theft. This happened to me in a store and I realized that the associate had gotten information from my credit card to purchase items that I would never buy.
I reported the theft and got a new card. This is why you have to be careful in stores and restaurants because employees can steal your identity and go on a shopping spree. I also saw this happen in a store that I worked in.
The assistant store manager was using credit card information from customers to buy things from the store. He would use many accounts so that the theft would not be easily detected.
I came in one day and my manager was taken out in handcuffs. You really never know anymore who is capable of this type of organizational theft which is why I always check my statements and report anything that does not sound right.
@Moldova -I know what you mean. I have to say that in all of my years of working in the retail industry, we always experienced more theft from the employees than the customers. I think that they have more access to do so.
For example, a sales associate has access to a register and can steal money from it when they are closing out for the evening. This is what happened to one of my employees.
The till would always come up short whenever she closed and the loss prevention team was on the alert and caught her. I also see theft in receiving areas because employees are alone with merchandise and it is often early in the morning when there are not a lot of people around.
This is why a lot of stores now have cameras in these areas. Another way that theft occurs is in when an employee lets items certain items pass through and does not ring them up. This is another way the loss and prevention team become aware of theft because they see a shortage in merchandise that does not match the sales in that department.
@Subway11 -I know that story is terrible because he gave these investors statements that appeared real and led them on for years.
I also wanted to add that Enron offered a similar situation to many of its stockholders and employees. The company’s senior executives hid financial losses in the billions and even inflated some of the revenue numbers in order to make the company look attractive to other investors in order to boost the stock price even more.
They even encouraged their employees to invest in the company stock, but when the Securities and Exchange Commission realized what was going on not only was the company stock worthless which caused all of the employees to lose their life savings, but they also lost their jobs because the company went bankrupt.
I know that World Com also suffered a similar fate and cases like this really opened people’s eyes as to the potential of occupational crime and its devastating effects. To lose your life savings and your job at the same time is really hard to imagine.
I think that when you think about occupational crimes there is no crime bigger than the fraud perpetrated by Bernie Madoff. Bernie Madoff stole over $60 billion dollars from investors in a fake ponzi scheme.
His crimes were going on for a period of twenty years and many investors trusted him because he was the former chairman of the NASDAQ exchange. It was really sad because people lost everything and most of his investors were of retirement age which did not offer enough time to make up for these losses.
He received 150 years in prison, but many feel that that is not even enough for what he did.
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