Should I fire an employee if I find out that they have embezzled from someone else in the past?

By David Harris

CEO, Prosperident

Over the past week, I’ve encountered a couple of similar situations, which leads me to believe that this scenario is worthy of my writing about it.

Both situations started with a call from a practice owner who had just discovered that an employee had previously embezzled from another practice.

While this isn’t my focus today, I’ll mention that this does highlight the poor job that most dentists do when screening job applicants; in both cases this information was discoverable before hiring. An article on proper pre-employment screening is here.

In both calls, we were being asked to see if these employees were now embezzling. I think that the hope of my callers was that if our investigation came back “clean”, they could stop worrying about these employees.

Unfortunately it fell to me to burst their bubbles, and I told each caller that in my view, the employees should be fired immediately.

Embezzlers are people who, responding to a particular set of pressures, chose to steal.  Many others, in similar circumstances, adopted some other solution.  The probability that, over the duration of their employment, those pressures will reoccur is considerable.

Once someone has shown a preparedness to cross the “criminal threshold”, particularly if doing so had relatively few consequences, the likelihood of recidivism is high.

There are certainly people (and I count myself among them) who, after youthful miscreance, choose to change their behavior.  I know and admire many people who mad a positive change in direction.

However, both of the employees in question failed a basic honesty test when applying for their current positions — they could have owned up to their pasts instead of concealing them.  Since both got their jobs on the basis of lies, this tells me that they have not yet turned the corner towards honesty, and are “ticking time bombs”.

While it wasn’t exactly what my callers were hoping to hear from me, I’m pleased to tell you that both have taken my advice and have parted company with these employees.  In a similar situation, you should do the same.

Do you have questions about embezzlement?  Give Prosperident a call at 888-398-2327 or send an email to