A B.C. Supreme Court judge has sided with a former Burger King employee who was fired after taking home approximately fifty cents worth of food.
Usha Ram, who had worked with the fast food chain for 24 years, was awarded $46,000 in a wrongful dismissal lawsuit. The 55-year-old was earning minimum wage as a cook at a Burger King restaurant in Vancouver when she was let go from her job.
According to court documents, Ram has little education and struggles with English. She had finished her shift on Dec. 27, 2013 when she realized that she had forgotten her wallet at home. She asked her general manager, Tayyaba Salman, if she could have some food. When Salman apparently agreed, Ram took a fish sandwich, medium-sized fries and a drink.
When Ram returned to work three days later, she was called into a meeting with Salman and the restaurant’s co-owner, who asked if she had stolen food. She apparently offered to pay for the food, but was told to go home for the day instead. Shortly afterwards, she was fired. Ram eventually filed a lawsuit, saying there was no just cause for her dismissal and she blamed the pair for causing her mental distress.
In court, Salman testified that she believed Ram only asked for a sandwich, not fries and a drink. Salman, who was apparently busy with a customer at the time, confirmed that Ram made no effort to hide the food she was taking.
Meanwhile the restaurant’s co-owner, Janif Mohammed, argued that he was within his rights to fire Ram because she had been caught stealing.
In Justice Lisa Warren’s ruling, she noted that since the price of a fish sandwich at Burger King was discounted for employees, the loss to Mohammed would have equaled about 50 cents. She ruled in Ram’s favour after finding there was a lack of evidence that Ram’s actions were premeditated. Warren also added that the restaurant’s zero-tolerance for theft could have been enforced through less serious actions, like a formal letter of reprimand.