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Man Fired Over a Tuna Sandwich, Fighting For Unemployment

A man named Ralph Reese, 57, was recently fired from his job at a New York Whole Foods for taking a tuna fish sandwich. The question now looms whether or not the act was misconduct, because anyone fired for misconduct is denied unemployment benefits. While the story may sound silly, experts say the high unemployment rate has spawned a rush of cases of people fighting for benefits. Reese's lawyer said:

"A lot more people are getting fired for very minor reasons. What we are seeing is that they are firing people for 'misconduct' when what they are really doing is downsizing and it’s an attempt to not pay benefits."

Whole Foods argued that Reese tried to steal the sandwich by taking it from the trash at the end of his shift as a deli clerk. The company has a policy that food can't be taken without being paid for, even though employees get a 20 percent discount. The company also has a program where team members are encouraged to try different products, but they are supposed to ask their supervisor, so the food is logged and accounted for.


Join The Conversation
chatondeneige chatondeneige 8 years
Good point to Smacks, and I'm with symphonee. I won't be shopping there. (Though I do have a nearby New Seasons which I prefer to WF, so they aren't exactly "losing" me - I'll just suck it up if NS is out of something I need rather than looking at WF)
aimeeb aimeeb 8 years
Smacks good point!!
Symphonee Symphonee 8 years
Wow so either way WF is being extremely petty by firing an employee for setting aside a non sellable item. If it is policy that he logs the sandwhich in a "roster" of employee purchaesd "damaged goods" did he even have time to do so. He could have been willing to pay for it to save his job seeing as he was on his way to put the rest in the trash. WF just lost a customer.
amybdk amybdk 8 years
lilkimbo - thanks for providing the other side of the story! I worked for Wild Oats for a number of years and I always hated when stuff like this happened. You'd have a real laid-back supervisor and then BAM - they're let go or quit and the new supervisor is completely different. I recall management putting pressure on supervisors to basically monitor specific employees they did not particularly like and take note of every little thing they did that wasn't policy - when others would completely disregard the rules and get away with it. And so it goes...
telewyo telewyo 8 years
It sounds like a simple misunderstanding...his past supervisors had let him do that and his current one was a "by the book" sort of person. It seems like a warning would have been enough to clear it up so I have to wonder if there are other problems in his employment history that caused him to be fired...if the sandwich alone was the cause to fire him, that would be wrong.
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
Interesting point, amy. After you said that, I read the article and Reese's version of the story is that he was getting ready to throw away a batch of damaged sandwiches that couldn't be sold when he set one aside. According to Reese, his past supervisors had allowed him to eat food that was going to be thrown away. He says the supervisor saw the sandwich set aside and threw it away, and that was that.
amybdk amybdk 8 years
Perhaps Whole Foods is more concerned with their image? I am sure if I saw an employee grab a sandwich out of the trash, I'd be thinking all sorts of things, like "Is he serving that sandwich to a customer?" or "Don't they pay their employees enough to survive?"
lilkimbo lilkimbo 8 years
If he took it from the shelf it would be one thing, but he took it from the trash. I'm with you, smacks.
Hello-Lizzy Hello-Lizzy 8 years
He took it from the trash. WF's policy is that if it's thrown away, it's already written off and logged as spoilage, and most certainly cannot be sold.
Smacks83 Smacks83 8 years
But he took it from the trash, a place cannot sell food that has been taken from the trash (just like they can't sell food after its expiration date, even if its still good)so how was this man suppose to pay for something that cannot be sold?
MsWalton MsWalton 8 years
This is rough. Granted with the current state of our economy, it isn't exactly hard to get fired from your job. Little things that were once overlooked are now being considered as grounds for dismissal. Yes, it was a tuna sandwich, but if the policy states that you must pay for ALL food, then he violated the policy.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
wow - that's an interesting story. when i was younger, a lot of my friends worked in the grocery store since there was some sort of benefit there for a break on the cost for food. i think that these hard times are causing people to do things that are uncharacteristic, and i guess we just don't know what the motivation there was. we haven't heard of Whole Foods laying off people, so i'd have to say that this is a misconduct thing, especially since it's clearly dictated that you must pay for food even at a discount.
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