A long-service Burger King employee who was fired after taking home a fish combo sandwich has now won a six-figure pay out after a B.C. court ruled the incident a misunderstanding.
Usha Ram had worked for the chain for 24 years before she was fired in 2013 after failing to pay for a meal – the former cook accepted she had taken the food but insisted she’d been given permission by her manager.
The manager on duty at the time, Yayyaba Salman, said she thought Ram had asked only to take the sandwich but not the drink and fries that came with the combo.
The following week, Salman waited to see if Ram would pay for the extra food which, taking into account employee discounts, would have come to a total of $1. When she failed to do so, the manager notified co-owner Janif Mohammed and Ram was pulled into a meeting accused of theft.
Mohammed admitted Ram “was a good and valued employee, with no record of any formal discipline” but told the court he had a zero-tolerance policy towards theft so had no choice but to dismiss the 55-year-old.
Ram – who is the sole breadwinner for her family, caring for her disabled husband and daughter – began crying and offering to pay for the food but was told to leave the premises. She also claimed she suffered mental distress following the dismissal.
Ultimately, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lisa Warren ruled that Ram had not been given an appropriate chance to respond to the allegations and criticized employer Mohammed for being unreasonable and unfair.
“Mr. Mohammed did not consider the particular circumstances or make any assessment of the actual seriousness of Ms. Ram’s conduct before deciding to terminate her employment,” she wrote in the judgement.
Warren also noted that Mohammed had failed to take into account the difficulty Ram would face trying to find new work, considering her age, limited English skills and poor education.
She went on to order the franchisee to pay Ram general damages of $21,000, which reflects a year’s worth of salary, plus $25,000 in aggravated damages for Ram’s emotional turmoil following the dismissal.