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What to Do When Employees Steal Food and Drink

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- If you've ever worked in an office and used the community refrigerator, chances are you've had your food eaten by someone else, pushed to the back or thrown out before its expiration date. While this can be frustrating for employees, it can be next to impossible for companies to police. Sometimes the problem can get so bad that employees don't stop at just swiping one another's food -- they begin stealing company-provided coffee, snacks, sodas and more.

Although installing security cameras may seem like an extreme measure, the Bloomberg Bureau of National Affairs in Arlington, Va., recently made headlines for threatening to install a camera in a communal kitchen to crack down on food and beverage theft. A leaked memo from BNA's vice president of human resources showed they weren't kidding around.

"Prior to the installation of the cameras and even after the cameras are installed, if you are observed taking any amount of soda, juice, milk, fruit or snacks home you may be subject to termination from BBNA for cause," the memo read. "Unfortunately, the behavior of a few individuals impacts all employees. If this type of behavior continues we will have no other option than to consider closing down the pantry."

Although the company later apologized to employees for their stern approach and decided not to install the pantry cameras after all, the incident highlights just how difficult it can be for companies to control what happens in the kitchen. If your company is struggling with pantry etiquette or looking for a way to control just how many sodas and coffee pods leave the building, we've got expert tips on how to manage.

Companies looking to combat this problem -- or head it off before it starts -- should make certain their employee handbook addresses proper kitchen behavior and expectations, says Steve Moore, director of human resource operations for HR and business consultancy Insperity.

"Unfortunately, employers cannot expect their employees to 'just know' what is expected of them," Moore says. "All policies and codes of conduct should be in a written format that is easily accessible by all employees."

An employer that does not have written guidelines is much more likely to encounter problems, Moore says, adding that kitchen rules should be posted in an area accessible to all employees, such as on the refrigerator or on a break room bulletin board.
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