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COA sides with man accused of stealing hotdogs

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The Indiana Court of Appeals says a man who was fired for snatching two hotdogs from the company refrigerator is entitled to unemployment benefits. In its opinion, the COA reversed a decision by the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development that stated Nolan Koewler’s employer – Dillards – was justified in terminating his employment.

On July 4, 2010, Dillards hosted a cookout, providing hotdogs and hamburgers for its employees. Dock manager Mike Marz had testified that the leftovers were to be saved for Labor Day. But the appeals court found that Marz told employees to put away the food; he did not testify that Koewler heard the food was intended for Labor Day.

“The record reveals that employees had been offered hamburgers and hotdogs for consumption; it does not reveal that the rescission of this offer of celebratory food was in fact communicated to Koewler,” the court wrote.

A day after the cookout, Koewler took two hotdogs from the refrigerator. Marz checked surveillance camera footage, and upon seeing Koewler nab the leftovers, reported him to the store manager.

The appeals court stated that Marz’s testimony in N.K. v. Review Board , No. 93A02-1012-EX-1431 indicates that the “off-limits” hotdogs were those destined for a freezer. However, Koewler and Marz each testified that the hotdogs at issue were retrieved from the refrigerator.

At a meeting with the store manager, Koewler admitted to the incident. A police officer was summoned, and the store manager advised Koewler that he had a choice: Sign a statement that he stole two leftover hotdogs or spend the night in jail. Koewler signed the statement and was fired.

A claims deputy for the department of workforce development had initially found that Koewler was entitled to receive unemployment compensation because he was not discharged for just cause. Dillards appealed. After a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge affirmed the deputy’s decision, and Dillards then appealed the review board. The board cited Indiana Code Section 22-4-15-1(d) in determining Koewler’s termination was just.

The appeals court held that “just cause,” as defined in Indiana Code Section 22-4-15-1, subsection (d)(9), is: “any breach of duty in connection with work which is reasonably owed an employer by an employee.” Koewler does not deny that he took the hotdogs, but no proof exists to support that he knew doing so was forbidden, the court stated.

Calling the board’s decision “unreasonable” and “contrary to law,” the appeals court reversed.

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  • Dillards Should Be Ashamed
    Dillards is ridiculous and should be ashamed to even fire this gentlemen, particularly in this rough economy. The value of the hotdogs is probably $2 and they want to take this to the Supreme Court. Dillards should br ashamed and the store manager should be fired for being an idiot.
  • Dillards Should Be Ashamed
    Dillards is ridiculous and should be ashamed to even fire this gentlemen, particularly in this rough economy. The value of the hotdogs is probably $2 and they want to take this to the Supreme Court. Dillards should br ashamed and the store manager should be fired for being an idiot.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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