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Firing Employee for Eating Hot Dogs Unjustified

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. | Last updated on

It may be strange to read about a hot dog firing, but the case of Nolan Koewler of Evansville, Indiana is an incredible example of why you need to be clear with all of your employees, and post notices so everyone gets the message.

Because, as a result of failing to do just that, a panel of three judges sitting on the Indiana Court of Appeals has determined that Mr. Koewler was not justifiably fired from a local Dillard's department store.

Now Dillard's unemployment taxes are going to go up.

The story of the hot dog firing began last Fourth of July, when Dillard's held a cookout for employees, reports the Associated Press. At the end of the event, a manager ordered the leftover food to the break room freezer for use on Labor Day.

Claiming not to hear instructions not to eat the food, on the following day, Nolan Koewler took two hot dogs and ate them.

He was accused of theft, and fired.

And then Dillard's protested his unemployment benefits, claiming that he was fired for just cause.

The court didn't agree, because there was no proof that Koewler knew, or heard, that the hot dogs were not to be eaten.

The lesson here is that you can't expect your employees to pay attention to you, particularly if you're requesting that they do something that may be unusual or uncommon.

So, in the future, in order to avoid your own Nolan Koewler hot dog firing incident, if there is particular behavior in which you do not want your employees to engage, you either need to post instructions in conspicuous locations, hand out fliers, or ensure that each employee has heard your instructions.

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