Facing a wave of employee theft, retailers nationwide are amassing a vast database of workers accused of stealing and are using that information to keep employees from working again in the industry, The New York Times reports.

However, the repositories of information often contain scant details about suspected thefts and routinely do not involve criminal charges, but mere inclusion on the list could prevent a job candidate from getting hired, the article says.

Some employees, who submit written statements after being questioned by store security officers, do not know they are admitting to committing a theft or that the information will remain in databases, according to the Times’ interviews with consumer lawyers, regulators and employees.

The databases have tens of thousands of subscribers and are used by major retailers like Target, CVS and Family Dollar. They are aimed at combating employee theft, which was the cause of about 44 percent of missing merchandise (work about $15 billion) in 2011, according to the National Retail Federation.

But labor lawyers and federal regulators are concerned that the legal databases are so sweeping that innocent employees could be affected – especially those coerced into confession when they have done nothing wrong, without understanding that they would be marked in the databases as thieves, the Times reports.