Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Disciplining Vulnerable Employees

"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."
"He claimed that he did not do so because it is necessary to ensure that employees know that taking food without authorization will not be tolerated."
"[Mr. Mohammed had testified that Usha Ram] was a good and valued employee, with no record of any formal discipline] with the Burger King chain before she was fired."
"[Janif Mohammed and co-owner of the franchise Michael Lacombe] behaved in an unreasonable, unfair and unduly insensitive manner."
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Lisa Warren
Usha Ram has been awarded $46,000 after being fired from a Vancouver Burger King.
Usha Ram has been awarded $46,000 after being fired from a Vancouver Burger King. (Jesse Johnston/CBC)

A 55-year-old woman who had come to Canada in 1987 from Fiji with a basic amount of English at her disposal having achieved a Grade 8 education in her country of birth, worked as a cook in a Burger King franchise for 24 years. As a full-time worker the woman, who was the sole family earner whose salary enabled her to care for a physically handicapped husband and an adult daughter who is mentally disabled, earned an annual wage of $21,000.

Her long employment and dependability marked her as a valuable employee, a fact her employers agreed upon. Yet she was fired because of a miscommunication and a company policy that ensnared this woman into a situation that was both demeaning and crudely and cruelly dismissive of her work record, her dignity as a human being, as well presenting as an acute instance of total disinterest in her welfare at age 55, with few other skills and poor English, in a search for replacement employment.

Her firing transpired as 2013 came to a close when her employer accused her of stealing from the company. Her crime was that she understood she had been given permission to take home with her a fish sandwich, french fries and a soft drink as she went off shift. She had asked the duty manager at the fast food outlet for permission to take home with her a "fish fry" free of charge as she had forgotten her wallet.

The manager agreed, under the impression that she would be taking the fish sandwich only, not accompanied by french fries and a soft drink. At the Burger King franchise employees were given entitlement to free drinks during shifts and outside of shifts, half-price food. Miscommunication aside, the cost of the the food items that Usha Ram had taken home with her would represent a value of $1.00. But management was offended that she was under the impression that she owed them nothing.

The manager bided his time, waiting for Ms. Ram to pay for the 'extra' food she had taken, but when she neglected to do so, he notified the owners. That resulted in Janif Mohammed accusing Usha Ram of theft. She wept, offering to pay for the food, hoping her job would not be in peril. But the decision had been made to fire her. This is a woman whose loyalty to her employers was evident in her willingness to be assigned to various sites.

The franchise locations in Vancouver, included a number of sites, and she was transferred to one site after another over the 24-year period when she was employed by the franchise owners. Justice has now finally been done. She has been awarded $46,000 for wrongful dismissal. Justice Warren ordered that the franchisee pay this ill-done-by woman general damages of $21,000, reflective of a year's salary, along with $25,000 in aggravated damages.

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