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New York Whole Food’s Fires Employee For (Not) Stealing

Recently, Whole Food’s in Manhattan fired employee Ralph Reese when he had set aside a tuna fish sandwich that had been destined for the garbage. Reese, who was employed at the Union Square location of the upscale grocery chain, was working at the deli counter when he was throwing away a batch of sandwiches left over from the day and placed one aside for himself. His manager told him that company policy prohibited doing such, and threw the sandwich away in front of Reese.

Two days later, Reese was fired for “misconduct”, despite having worked at Whole Food’s for over 2 years without incident. Given the stated reason for his discharge, Reese was unable to apply for unemployment benefits upon his termination, even though no particular policy was violated in that the sandwich set aside was ultimately thrown away and he did not leave the store with any property.

After being refused benefits, Reese took his case to court where an Administrative Judge ruled that his behavior did not rise to the level of misconduct and had his benefits reinstated. While absurd, this is not a new trend with many employers seeking to trim their payrolls, while trying to withhold unemployment benefits to save on their unemployment insurance rates. If you are terminated and have your benefits held unfairly, make sure to discuss your options with an employment attorney.

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