Retailers Track Employee Thefts in Vast Databases

Facing a wave of employee theft, retailers have amassed vast databases of workers accused of stealing and they use the information to keep employees from working again in the industry. The repositories of information often contain scant details about suspected thefts and routinely do not involve criminal charges, but the information can be enough to ruin a job candidate’s chances. Some employees who submit written statements after being questioned by store security officers have no idea they admitted committing a theft or that the information will remain in databases. The databases, which have tens of thousands of subscribers and are used by major retailers like Target, CVS, and Family Dollar, are aimed at combating employee theft. While the databases are legal, they face scrutiny from labor lawyers and federal regulators, who worry they are so sweeping, that innocent employees can be harmed. The lawyers say workers are often coerced into confessing, sometimes when they have done nothing wrong, without understanding that they will be branded as thieves. The FTC has fielded complaints about the databases and is examining whether they comply with the FCRA, a federal law aimed at curbing inaccurate consumer information and giving consumers more control.

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