"Brew"haha: Coffemaker Thief not Entitled to Benefits

September 23, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A Minnesota appellate court has affirmed an unemployment law judge's decision that an employee who took a coworker's coffeemaker was discharged for misconduct and not entitled to unemployment benefits.

The court first agreed with the employee that he was actually fired although he technically resigned. “When an employee is given the option of quitting or being discharged, the employer’s action is considered a discharge,” the opinion said.

However, the court then agreed with the unemployment law judge that the theft was compounded by misleading or false statements, creating an atmosphere in which coworkers could no longer trust the employee and violating the employer’s policy against dishonesty of any nature, falsification of reports or records, mistreatment of a staff member, and any violation of law, justifying his discharge. The court rejected the employee’s assertion that he was discharged based on age discrimination, saying nothing in the record indicates that it has merit.

According to the court’s opinion, the employee’s coworker won a coffeemaker at a company party and stored it overnight at the workplace. When the coworker could not find it the next morning, he asked the employee, who had been the last person to leave the previous evening, whether he had seen it, and the employee denied taking it. The coworker reported the missing coffeemaker to his employer, which investigated, and a surveillance video recorded the previous evening showed the employee going out of the building carrying the coffeemaker, strapping it onto his bicycle, and leaving.

The director of employee and labor relations confronted the employee who asserted that he had agreed to buy it from his coworker but had not yet paid him for it, but the director did not believe the employee and gave him the choice of resigning immediately or being fired. He warned the employee that, if he chose to be fired, the theft would be reported to the police department, so the employee resigned.

The court’s opinion is here .