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I work as the sole IT person for a smallish company(50 - 70 employees). We deal in medical supplies and equipment and as such all of us here handle sensitive data pretty much constantly. I will have to provide a little background to fully explain my situation, I will try to be concise:

December 2014: A good friend of mine who was working with the company as a marketer mentions to myself and a few others that she will be leaving the company to start her own medical supply company. Despite her initial desire to keep things under-wraps till she turned in her resignation, boss found out pretty quickly from another coworker. No action was taken by boss, nothing changed.

April 2015: On 4/1/15, my friend turns in her resignation and 2-week notice and formally informs the boss and owner of her intention of leaving to start her own business; her last day being 4/14/15.

Incident: On Friday 4/10/15, 1 hour before the end of the day, the boss calls my friend in for a meeting. At about the same time I also get called into a meeting but in a separate room. After a few minutes of waiting, an individual I have never met before came into the room with one of the company managers (not my direct manager as I do not have one other than the boss). This individual identified herself as an attorney and then proceeded to ask me if I knew my marketer friend who was leaving to which I answered yes as she was a friend of mine. Attorney then proceeds to inform me that she is being accused of stealing patient data and that I am being implicated saying that I stole the data for her. I was completely blindsided by the accusation and shocked. The attorney then asked me to write a statement saying I had not provided my friend with any of the company's data. After the statement I was escorted to my vehicle and told to not mention the exchange to anyone and to go home.

By the following Monday I was complete wreck from stressing out about how this all came to place. I arrived to work to find that some folks from an 'IT company' were hired to come and look at the server and PCs and ensure that there was no data breach. Ultimately, their answer was 'inconclusive'.

Since the event, my boss took a rather negative attitude towards me which since then has sort of fizzled out (IMO) as a result of my working rather hard for this company and constantly going above and beyond my calling.

When I received my yearly review this year, after not mentioning anything about the event, boss decides to say, in the middle of the review no less, '... you know, I am still not over what happened back in april with the data breach... I cant say that I dont think you did it...'

I feel extremely deflated and a big part of me wants to talk to a lawyer but... I am not even sure what I can do or if its worth bothering with.

I have been looking for another job recently, but I feel like leaving is cowardly... thoughts? advice? anything?

  • What exactly was stolen in the form of patient information? What did this have to do with your friend's new business? Who brought this up to your management and in what form - how did they find out? What exactly were you accused of - to the detail? – blankip Nov 21 '15 at 3:45
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    @Shishimaru440 - if your "friend" really did steal information then that's probably not a person you want to continue associating with. If she implicated you, then it's even worse. It sounds to me like your reputation at this company is hopelessly tainted - if your own boss makes that kind of incredibly unprofessional statement then you can bet that good things are not coming your way in the future. I would cut my loses and get out while I still can. Try to get some references from a sympathetic co-worker or two, and go work for a company that can manage to keep track of their data. – AndreiROM Nov 21 '15 at 9:44
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    You should have gotten your own lawyer back when the initial accusation was made. – HorusKol Nov 21 '15 at 22:38
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    Just wanted to say thanks for all the replies. Guess I'll be looking for another job more aggressively so I can leave where I am at as soon as possible. – Shishimaru440 Nov 23 '15 at 19:39
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    Next time you're taken into a room and asked questions by an attorney, do not answer any questions and immediately get legal representation yourself. This is valid for any situation in which you are being formally questioned with legal implications. – jeremy radcliff Dec 26 '15 at 22:10
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You aren't being discriminated against. They feel that you did something wrong and could not prove it.

Really this whole question centers around your company's ineptness at doing their job - keeping track of patient data. If they had any sort of decent system in place it would be basically impossible (I am guessing you are not head of IT) for anyone to get patient data with no record/log.

Your company is so inept at this, that they cannot even hire a good forensic team to look at it.

What would I do? I would sit down with your boss and make sure he understands the above and you were welcoming the outside company to look at anything. I would tell him that you never had an intent to get patient data - and if you did then why wouldn't you be working for the coworker who left.

It is highly likely that either the co-worker who left told or insinuated that you helped or possibly another co-worker who just likes to stir the pot or can't help but misunderstand things. Management listening to these sorts of allegations is doing nothing wrong nor do they have any choice but to talk to you about this.

You can certainly talk to a lawyer but in most countries (US for sure) you would have little recourse. You are still working there, didn't get demoted, and you have even admitted that they had acted like it blew over. It is really just a terrible situation that was compounded by a tech-foolish firm.

I would double down your allegiance to the company and say "If I thought anyone was doing anything like this I would report them myself."

What could you have done different? Probably not associate with a friend at work who may start a business to rival your current company is a good start.

What can you do now? Probably just continue to work until you find another job. There is no use you feeling that your career is on halt because of a false accusation. Unless your current management goes above and beyond to prove they are over it I would assume it will continue to linger forever.

The Catch-22: All of the ways permanently out of this are basically impossible or cause more problems other than management just 100% forgiving you.

  1. The greatest % chance of working is the co-worker that left stating that you had nothing to do with this. They have no reason to believe her.

  2. You hire/suggest a good firm to do forensic analysis. Well you may be in cahoots with said firm.

  3. You ask them to hire a better firm for forensic analysis. Well now you are costing them lots of money and calling their managers who hired first firm idiots.

So you can be totally cleared of the above and then they could still not like you because of the next issue. You are really in a no-win situation.

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    In your review your boss tells you he thinks you stole and you are not being discriminated against? So he makes it a point to bring it up in a review but his opinion on that matter had nothing to do with your rating? – paparazzo Nov 21 '15 at 0:41
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From what you describe, your boss is a combination of ineffectual, paranoid and insane which makes him not worth working for. He flat out told you that he believes you stole company property, yet doesn't seem to have the spine to actually fire you.1

What happened to you was an injustice but there is almost certainly no way to repair the relationship. You'll be unappreciated and unrewarded for your work as long as you stay there. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose by trying to "fight" this so letting it go is not cowardly, it's the smart thing to do.

Find another job at a company that actually respects its employees.

Once you've given notice, ensure that you establish with your manager what kind of reference they'll give you. Given the damaged relationship it's probably best if you both agree that the company will only confirm employment dates and won't comment beyond that. It would be illegal for them to slander you to prospective employers as you were not found guilty of a crime. The article "Can They Really Say That? What Employers Can Say About You When Giving References " by Donna Ballman is worth reading for anyone in this situation.


1 I'm assuming he's worried about the legal implications, as there have been successful lawsuits filed by former employees on this. How and why I can't fathom as an employer can fire you over pretty much anything but it's likely that criminal malfeasance is a separate case.

2

If it wasn't the case that you are unfortunately in the middle of this mess, the whole situation would be laughable.

It seems they suspect that patient data was stolen, but don't have any evidence for it, and the only reason for the suspicion is that an ex-employee has been starting her own company.

It seems they suspect that you helped stealing the patient data, but don't have any evidence that you helped stealing it, they don't even have any evidence that any data was stolen, and the only reason they suspect you might have helped stealing data is because you knew the person - which in a company of 50 to 70 people is quite unavoidable.

Apart from no evidence that any data was stolen, is there any reason to believe your help would have been needed to help in such a theft? Couldn't that person have stolen the data herself? Wouldn't it have been madness of her to ask you for help, when most people would have immediately called their boss when asked to help in the theft of patient data? Is it in any way rational to believe that you would have become a criminal and risked your job to help someone stealing patient data? Why would you?

If they think that patient data was stolen, have they informed the authorities? Are their systems so insecure that an employee could steal patient data without being caught? And as others mentioned, if the company thinks that you were involved in such a theft, and this is happening in the USA (which is likely because of the "two weeks notice") why are they still employing you?

It's not quite clear what position "your boss" has in the company. It may be that everyone else thinks you are in the clear, but he is stupid and paranoid and has to make a stupid comment that he still suspects you - and that comment was stupid. One reason why people behave in an honest way is to protect their reputation. With a comment like this from your boss, what reason would you have to behave in an honest way?

Now what you might want to do: I would try to find out what the company's opinion of the situation is. Whether they think like your boss or not. And since you haven't done anything wrong, not defending yourself makes you look worse in the eyes of that paranoid boss. So there's one of two things you could tell him. A. "I haven't done anything wrong. I feel insulted by the fact that you still suspect me, when I have done nothing wrong, and when there is no valid reason to suspect I did, so I expect an apology". B. "I haven't done anything wrong, and there is no valid reason to suspect I did, but at this point I really don't care what you think".

Apart from that, start looking for a new position elsewhere. It's not cowardly. You are in an unfortunate situation through no fault of your own, and finding a new job would help you.

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I would go to HR and tell them he said in your review he thinks you stole or helped steal data.

They either need to trust you and move forward or fire you.

It is time to look for another job. And be ready to be escorted out the moment you hand in you notice. You are not being cowardly. They are the ones that have accused of of stealing (twice).

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    Can you elaborate more on how HR will help? They're trying to protect the company, not you. – user42272 Nov 20 '15 at 23:41
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    Also sorry I'm not a fan of just across-the-board asserting to someone they need to find another job. You may as well just auto-post that as an answer to every question since it applies every time there is any problem at work. It really disrespects all the reasons the OP might want to work at their job, for which a lot of people "I have it" is a good answer. – user42272 Nov 20 '15 at 23:47
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    @djechlin We don't at all see things the same. If you want to stay around after you have been accused of stealing twice then that is your values. – paparazzo Nov 21 '15 at 0:00

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