Fired for tak­ing $0.50 worth of food, Burger King cook wins $46K in dam­ages

Ex-Burger King worker was let go for tak­ing 50 cents’ food

Metro Canada (Vancouver) - - FRONT PAGE - Jen St. De­nis

A for­mer Burger King cook has been awarded $46,000 in dam­ages three years af­ter her Jan­uary 2014 dis­missal for tak­ing 50 cents’ worth of food at the end of her shift.

A B.C. Supreme Court jus­tice awarded Usha Ram $21,000 in lieu of no­tice (one year’s salary) and an ad­di­tional $25,000 in ag­gra­vated dam­ages. Ram had asked for $230,000 in dam­ages.

The case hinged on whether Ram was au­tho­rized to take a free fish sand­wich, or a fish sand­wich along with an or­der of fries and a pop, when she fin­ished her shift at the Burger King lo­ca­tion on Granville Street where she had worked for five years. Ram had worked at other Van­cou­ver-area Burger Kings for a to­tal of 24 years. At the time of her ter­mi­na­tion she was earn­ing B.C.’s min­i­mum wage of the time, $10.25 an hour.

Ram is orig­i­nally from Fiji and her first lan­guage is a form of Hindi. Ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments, at the end of her shift on Dec. 27, 2013, she asked her man­ager in Hindi if she could take home “a fish fry” (there is no word for sand­wich in Hindi) and the man­ager gave her per­mis­sion to do so. She packed up the sand­wich, fries and pop in full view of the man­ager and left.

The fol­low­ing day, the man­ager waited to see whether Ram would pay for the fries and pop. When she didn’t, she was called into the area man­ager’s of­fice and told she would be sus­pended for tak­ing the food with­out pay­ing. As she walked out of the res­tau­rant, the owner of the fran­chise asked her, in the pres­ence of other em­ploy­ees, whether she had lost her job. A few days later, she was fired over the phone.

The way Ram was dis­missed caused her em­bar­rass­ment and men­tal dis­tress “over and above the nor­mal dis­tress and hurt feel­ings re­sult­ing from the ter­mi­na­tion of her em­ploy­ment,” wrote Jus­tice Lisa Warren in her Feb. 9 rul­ing.

“In par­tic­u­lar, the theft al­le­ga­tion caused her shame, em­bar­rass­ment, anx­i­ety and dis­tress about her abil­ity to find an­other job and that this wors­ened her de­pres­sive symp­toms and re­sulted in sleep­less nights.”

the theft al­le­ga­tion caused her shame, em­bar­rass­ment. Jus­tice Lisa Warren

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GEtty ImAGES

A for­mer long-time Burger King em­ployee was awarded $46,000 in dam­ages for wrong­ful dis­missal af­ter she was turfed from her job in Van­cou­ver for tak­ing home about 50 cents’ worth of food.

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