Other than contacting the former employer and asking them, no. There is nothing in the law that would force a former employer to reveal their motives for terminating an employee. There is no law against calling and asking them however, but they don't have to tell you.
Other than that you will just have to piece together clues. The employee apparently was not charged with a crime, but he would have been denied unemployment if fired for cause. So you may look at his employment gaps, ask if he was on unemployment, etc.
But I am sorry, there is no legal mechanism find out from a former employer their true motives. Like I said, the most reliable indicator would probably be whether or not he applied for unemployment benefits (assuming there was an employment gap).
I was pretty sure this was the case. This emloyee is blackmailing an acquaintance involved in the theft but we've been told that if his employer didn't press charges at the time, the "friend" isn't in jeopardy either. To your knowledge, is this true?
It would depend on the circumstances. It is not necessarily true that the employer could not press charges later, if some new information surfaces. It would be unlikely in my opinion, but not totally impossible.
Certainly makes sense. Thanks for your answers. You have given me the support I needed for the advice I gave. It would have been nice if these people had stayed out of trouble in the first place!!
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