51

I went on a work trip with my boss and we stayed at an AirBNB that was under my boss's name. She brought along her baby, and wanted a house to stay in so she could hire a babysitter to watch her baby while we were at work meetings. The AirBNB was very nice, and we both talked about staying there in the future.

After we had left the AirBNB at the end of our week long stay (around 7pm) my boss (who reserved the AirBNB so she was the only one in communication with the host) got a text from the host saying she was missing a yoga/buddhist book. Both my boss and I didn't even see any books in the home, so my boss texted back saying we didn't see any books nor did we know what happened to the book that she believed to be missing.

2 weeks later I am scheduled for a regular meeting with my boss. I arrive at the meeting with my boss only to find not only my boss in the room, but my bosses boss, and an HR Representative. I am immediately questioned and interrogated about the AirBnB and all personal items I had with me during the stay, and if I saw a yoga/buddhist book and if I know what happened to the book. I still say I had never seen the book in question.

Then my boss pulls out her phone with a photo the host had of me holding a book (only the back of the book is visible in the photo), and claims that it is her book (the host does not remember the title of the book nor the content (just thinks it is about yoga) as she has never read the book, but thinks the one I am holding in a photo from a hidden camera at her home is her book). The book in my hand is not about yoga nor Buddhism. But because the host thinks she recognizes the book as her own from the hidden camera she had a the house, she is adamant I took the book.

So now I am believed to be a book thief. I was then asked to go home and get the book I believed was mine and bring it in. I ran home, got the book, and HR sent a photo of the cover with the title of the book now, and the host responds that yes, that was her missing book.

HR, my boss, and my bosses boss is still deliberating on what to do from here. I have maintained my innocence all along, and am so hurt that my employer would even think that I would steal a book and lie about it.

This all happened on Monday, and I have noticed a difference in the way I am treated (our office setting is very small and walls are very thin). I feel like I am being shunned and treated differently as a result of this false accusation.

I have another meeting tomorrow, and am wondering how best to try to remedy the situation (meanwhile my book is still in HR's hands, and my boss claims she gave her credit card information to the host to cover the book's expense). What should I be prepared with when I go into the meeting?

  • 2
    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Feb 14 '18 at 17:05
90

This situation is a mess from start to finish. I, like the others, believe this is 110% a scam. AirBNB highly recommends not to send any payments or credit card information outside of their platform because of scams. All problems should be raised and taken care of through AirBnB. Plus, why would there be a need to send the credit card information? Your boss knows the address, she could just have the book delivered there from an online store.

The biggest problem, though, lies in the way the company handled this situation. I think, at the best, that you are a collateral victim here and at the worst a scapegoat for something else. In either way, you have already been labeled as a thief and a liar. You will probably not be trusted again very soon, if ever.

Advice: be very prepared for the next meeting and stick to the facts:

  • say you believe it's a scam because the host was inconsistent and vague; the host deliberately broke the AirBnB rules by asking or receiving compensation outside the app

  • make notes about how the host first said it was a yoga book and then changed her mind

  • make notes that neither you nor your boss has seen any books in the house
  • read and quote the AirBnB policies, make strong notes about conflict resolution via AirBnB
  • make notes about your, I assume, spotless past at the company

Last but not least, don't be late in contacting a lawyer. Whatever the outcome, it is highly possible you will be needing one.

And tell them to give you your book back. That's just ridiculous.

  • 67
    I would also check if it is illegal to install hidden cameras in your jurisdiction and it this is the case, find out where to report this. – Josef Jan 31 '18 at 11:55
  • 16
    A lawyer may well become necessary, however, I think that trust between management and the OP has been broken so completely that I would immediately start looking for a new job at that point. Good advice on how to act in the meeting. Bine ai venit pe site ;) – AndreiROM Jan 31 '18 at 14:38
  • 1
    @Josef: In the USA, it's legal to install hidden cameras in one's own home. However, it's not legal in many states to install a hidden camera where a person may have some expectation of privacy, as in the case of a bathroom or an AirBnB bedroom. I agree, one should check the law. – jvriesem Feb 15 '18 at 20:43
  • 1
    Also, the fact that they had a hidden camera is pretty unusual. That also may indicate a scam. Who puts a hidden camera in their home? – jvriesem Feb 15 '18 at 20:44
58

Something is very strange here.

First, it is very disturbing that your boss and HR would accept this extremely vague claim from the air bnb host as if it were 100% true. Any reasonable person would ask "what is the name of the missing book?" and if they didn't get a fairly specific answer, things would end there. The host didn't even get the subject of the book right. Really?

Second, if this story is true (and to be honest, I have grave doubts that it is), I find it absolutely bizarre to bring a baby (let alone a child of any age) on a business trip with the intention of a) finding a baby sitter in that location, presumably on short notice, and b) trusting said babysitter, who would be completely unknown to the mother, to care for the baby. Most people I know can't find available/trustworthy baby sitters in their home location so this seems absolutely preposterous to me and makes me question the authenticity of this story overall. I simply can't believe this.

But suspending disbelief for a moment, if the story is true I think your boss has some very unusual attitudes around blindly trusting total strangers in situations that could have rather serious outcomes. I dare say she displays very poor judgement at best.

The fact that she has basically turned against you in the face of this kooky claim from the host...I don't think there is any hope of recovery from this situation. I for one could not stomach working for someone who didn't at least show some ability to objectively get to the bottom of the situation and I'd always prefer to work with people who have my back. A boss who would throw me under the bus over a book that the claimant can't even describe accurately...

Move on asap. you can't fix stupid.

  • 4
    Good points. The company completely overreacted based on an incredibly flimsy accusation. Ending up in a full-on, adversarial meeting involving two levels of management and HR over such a trivial matter would have me looking for a new job the same day. – AndreiROM Jan 31 '18 at 14:37
  • 26
    I agree completely. I would have laughed in their faces at even having instigated such a meeting. Things would have gone something along the lines of "Yes, I had a book with me. Yes, you'll have to take my word on it. Why wouldn't you? So you're saying that I'm not trust worthy, and implying that I've stolen a random book from a host who can't even pin-point the title, or topic of said book? We're done here." – AndreiROM Jan 31 '18 at 15:09
  • 1
    @user82365 I know that this whole situation seems completely insane, because it is. It's very much real though. I really appreciate your thoughtful answer. – COGirl Jan 31 '18 at 15:55
  • 7
    @user82365 I also wanted to include all the information around the situation- the Air BnB did not just host the boss and me- there were 4 other babysitters in and out of the house throughout the week (I agree, it seems crazy to trust your baby with a stranger...) so why these other strangers were never questioned is also frustrating. – COGirl Jan 31 '18 at 16:41
  • 4
    @user82365: Unless the AirBnB-Host was not so strange to the Boss with the baby after all - then it starts to make sense ... – Daniel Feb 13 '18 at 14:28
8

This answer takes into account you don't have any evidence to prove the book is yours, a receipt, family member, friend, etc.

This honestly comes down to how much you care about this job. Let's be honest, this is a book. By the sound of it , they have completely overreacted and they clearly don't believe you. This means going forward, you have to infer that they might not trust you. I can only give you options because if I were in your situation, being falsely accused and not even given the benefit of the doubt by my boss, I would leave.

Option 1: you continue to deny any claims, eventually this dies down and maybe things go back to normal but most likely they don't forget. It's a small company.

Option 2: (Recommended) Meet with your boss, who you went on the trip with, alone. Not with HR, they aren't your friend. Explain to him/her how ridiculous the situation is. And refer to your past performance as how you would never do this. And ask for your book back, that's insane.

Option 3: contact the house owner and talk with them. I don't recommend this, they will probably push back onto your boss

Option 4: you took the book, too late to admit it. Keep denying

Again, if you have a good relationship with your boss, sit down with him/her alone. I would seriously consider my future at a company where my own boss, who I'm supposedly close enough to stay in the same house with, won't back me. And worse, runs to HR

Warning: if you do end up deciding you aren't welcome at the company and feel like you won't be in the near future, you can't reference this job in your resume. This might be a huge deal depending on how much time you have put in. You don't want a future job calling your old boss and being told you are a thief.

  • Presumably, if a prospective employer contacted this employer and was told that she was a thief, wouldn't that open them up to a lawsuit? I'm pretty sure that HR usually takes the policy of only informing on whether or not a person was actually employed there, and also the dates. I know my company, for example, will not indicate whether the employee was good or not. – Mranz Feb 2 '18 at 18:40
  • Yes, you mention a good point. However, your previous boss might just say "they aren't a very good worker" if they aren't allowed to disclose any previous incidents. – pm1391 Feb 5 '18 at 21:10
2

Against evidence to the contrary it seems they believed the accuser, decided to keep your book, to reimburse the accuser, and apparently they also allowed rumors about the false allegations to spread. Assuming your summary is complete and accurate, none of these are things that level headed and unbiased people would do, so you must no longer approach them like level headed and unbiased people. It seems these are people who prefer to believe the one who shouts the loudest. If you're really unlucky, they are people who believe whoever shouts first.

You've already tried the calm cooperative approach, which was exactly what you needed to do back then. It didn't work with these people. If you want to have any chance of being heard by these people, you need to be loud.

Make it very clear that this is your book, and you brought it in as goodwill. If they try to play police and confiscate your goods, make it known that they ("the company", avoid making it personal) are engaging in petty theft, and that you are willing to call the police on them. Make it absolutely clear that what they are doing is very far from ok. Also be prepared to talk to a lawyer, especially so if that next meeting is about a formal warning or a termination.

If you do not fight such accusations they will stick.

When you're loud, it's crucial to steer clear from personal attacks, so instead of saying e.g. "It's ridiculous that you're accusing me of this" you say "I feel that I'm being treated very unfairly by the company over these false allegations.".

This is not guaranteed to work, but given your situation where they have already decided on your guilt against all evidence, the calm and cooperative approach is pretty much guaranteed to either put your career at the company on hold, or even lead to your eventual termination. Only the fear of repercussion can wake them up.


PS: Since this is possibly about a wrongful termination, document everything, up to the smallest detail you can remember, including exact times and durations of any relevant interactions, and how your counterparts in the meeting were dressed. Should you need to use the documentation because the company escalates the situation, show the documentation to an employment lawyer before showing it to the company.

EDIT: Sorry, just saw this was actually an old post that was bumped by a spelling edit, so this answer is no longer relevant to you.

  • I do appreciate your response, though, and it is good information for future reference. – COGirl Feb 14 '18 at 0:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.