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Employee Theft: Behavioral Aspects - Ancient Or Modern Problem

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Many regard and treat theft by employees as a relatively new phenomenon that emerged with the development of large bureaucratic organizations with their impersonal relationships between employers and employees. Employee theft is neither a new problem nor one limited to modern work systems. Reference to employee theft is found in one of the earliest bodies of laws, the Code of Hammurabi, carved on diorite columns during the eighteenth century B.C.E. The code's 288 laws contain at least eight specific references to employer-employee, consigner-consignee relations that apply to what is today called employee theft. For example, the 265th law states, "If a shepherd to whom oxen or sheep have been given to pasture become unfaithful, alter the brand or sell them, they shall convict him and he shall restore tenfold to their owner the oxen and sheep he has stolen" (Luckenbill).

What makes the problem of employee theft appear modern or of recent origin are the significant social changes that modern work systems represent: new organizational structures, new relationships between employers and employees, new configurations of material and products, new victims (including new legal constructs such as corporations), new opportunity structures that give workers access to more goods, facilities and services, new configurations of work norms regulating employee behavior, new systems for preventing or coping with employee theft, and the separation of property ownership from property control in the modern organization. Viewed together, these make the problem appear a modern one or at least one of a different order than earlier employee theft.

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