Employees often feel like they have a right to office supplies. If they take a few small items home with them, they don't consider it theft. But is that still technically stealing? It could count as petty theft.

Here are a few examples of how this type of theft occurs and why people often don't even realize they're committing a crime:

Taking Useful Items

Many small, low-cost items are very useful outside of work, and employees may feel like it's convenient to take them home. For example, an employee could be heading to the store after work, and he or she may grab some note paper and a pen to make a list of things to buy. Not done with the list at 5:00, the employee puts the items in a coat pocket to bring along. While taking a pen that cost 10 cents may not feel like a big deal, there is an impact when a company has thousands of employees.

In some cases, employees could feel a sense of ownership over time. For instance, a construction worker who uses the same tape measure and power tools every day may eventually think nothing of taking them home to work on his garage for the weekend.

Using Items in the Workplace

Some theft happens right in the workplace, with everyone watching. For instance, perhaps an employee needs to print off some legal documents while buying a new house. Doing it at work technically deprives the company of ink, paper and electricity, all of which were paid for to help the business. Employees don't even feel like they've stolen anything, but they have.

People often think of workplace theft as embezzlement, which is direct theft of financial assets that is then covered up. However, while these major cases do happen, far more cases of minor theft occur every single day.

Facing Charges

One potential problem, for employees, is that workplace theft could get them into legal trouble if charges are filed, even if they didn't realize they were breaking the law at the time. It's very important for people who are facing charges to know all of the legal rights that they have.