Magazine article Security Management

Retaliation

Magazine article Security Management

Retaliation

Article excerpt

An appellate court has ruled that a company properly fired an employee who stole company property and then lied about the theft, even though that employee was simultaneously organizing a union.

In August 1994, the general manager of Tucci Milan, a restaurant in Chicago, noticed that someone had withdrawn several pages from his manager's log. The log contained a one-page summary for each day the restaurant was open. The summaries contained sales information and other business data. The summaries often included derogatory comments on employees and customers. The log was locked in the manager's office.

When the manager discovered that the pages were missing, he questioned those employees who had access to the office. He did not consider interrogating all the employees, even though every employee could request keys to the office to use the copy machine.

That summer, 19 Tucci employees met at fellow employee Brian Gibson's house to discuss various work-related problems, including health and safety issues. Attendees at the meeting were shown a copy of a document headed "constructive criticism." It contained the portions of the manager's log that denigrated employees, cut and pasted into one document. Gibson suggested that the group contact a union representative and ask about their rights.

At a second meeting at the Gibson residence, seven employees attended, signed union authorization cards, and formed a union organizing committee.

On October 8, the organizing committee met at a bar across from Tucci. At the meeting, Gibson distributed copies of the "constructive criticism" document. One employee, Ken Schrader, recognized the items as part of the manager's log and became upset. He repeatedly called the document stolen property and demanded to know where Gibson obtained it. At first, Gibson said: "You don't want to know." Later, he claimed he had found the documents in the trash.

The next day, Schrader gave his copy of the document to the general manager and told him that Gibson was distributing the document in an effort to form a union.

On October 11, the general manager called a meeting and announced that parts of the manager's log had been stolen and that the police had been contacted. …

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