Monday, May 07, 2007

Woman Fired From Subway And Charged With Theft After Sharing Her FREE Drink

A food worker who poured two cups of Diet Coke at work without paying for them has lost her job and is facing criminal charges. Dunedin worker Jackie Lang was fired from her fulltime job at fast-food franchise Subway after she shared a drink with a friend while consoling her during a break. About two weeks after she was fired, police charged her with the theft of two cups of Coke valued at $4. She will appear in Dunedin District Court this month. Autonomous Workers Union organiser Bill Clark says the dismissal is one of the worst he has seen. He says the Subway handbook allows free soda and water while working. Losing her job and facing criminal charges has upset Lang, who is taking a personal grievance action against Subway. Through an intermediary, she said the company's actions were a shock, embarrassing and had caused her financial hardship. She felt she should have been given a warning rather than been fired and that the response was out of proportion to her actions. "I shared my drink with my friend. I was only trying to comfort her. Isn't it what most people would do? I mean, I wasn't trying to do anything wrong. I did what I thought any person would do in the situation."Security video footage of the incident shows Lang sharing the drink with her friend, then refilling the cup and leaving it on the table when she returned to work. "Most people wouldn't be fired and put in a police cell for two hours for sharing a drink." Clark said Subway called Lang to a meeting on March 19 without telling her it was a disciplinary matter. She was then told her action had been referred to police. Lang was charged with theft 20 days later. Clark is surprised managers at the George St Subway did not deal with the incident internally as Lang had a clean employment history and no criminal record. "It's a human thing to do to offer a drink as comfort. If Subway doesn't like it, they have internal procedures to deal with that." Clark says Lang, who has Asperger's syndrome - a form of autism - has been hit hard by the stress of losing her job and facing charges, including having to explain the situation to her new boss. "She just wants it to go away," he said. Protests were held outside the George St Subway yesterday, drawing attention to Lang's case. Public support for Lang has been strong and local business have made donations to cover potential legal bills. The owners of the George St Subway were unavailable for comment last week. No one could be contacted at Subway's South Island office. The person who could comment from the North Island office was unavailable. In a letter addressed to Lang, the directors said she had given the drink to a friend without payment and that was considered "serious misconduct" and a breach of their "trust and fidelity". National Distribution Union solicitor David Fleming said he had heard of cases where people were dismissed for similar things, but getting the police involved was unusual. "It would be the exception rather than the norm."