FIRED WORKER FACES PROSECUTION AFTER SHARING DRINK WITH FRIEND
(New Zealand Press Association Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Wellington, May 6 NZPA - An appeal has been launched to pay the legal fees for a Dunedin fast food worker who was fired and faces criminal charges after sharing her free drink at work with a friend.
Autonomous Workers Union organiser Bill Clark said the ``paper cup'' appeal for ex-Subway worker Jackie Lang had found great support among Dunedin's small businesses.
Ms Lang was fired from her fulltime job and faces theft charges in Dunedin District Court on May 21 after she shared a cup of Diet Coke while consoling an upset friend during a break.
Mr Clark said the Subway handbook allowed free soda and water while staff were working.
Ms Lang, who has taken a personal grievance action against Subway, said the company's actions were a shock, embarrassing and caused her financial hardship.
``I shared my drink with my friend. I was only trying to comfort her,'' she told the Sunday Star Times through an intermediary.
``I wasn't trying to do anything wrong. I did what I thought any person would do in the situation.''
Mr Clark said he had never seen such an extreme example of corporate bullying.
``That a giant multinational like Subway would fire and then prosecute a vulnerable worker for sharing a cup of Diet Coke and think that was a fair response is just unbelievable.
``They've turned Jackie's life upside down for what seems to be no reason at all.''
A spokesman for Subway confirmed to NZPA that Ms Lang was facing charges, but said employment issues were a ``confidential matter between an employee and an employer, and I can't comment on those''.
He also confirmed Ms Lang had brought a personal grievance action against Subway, and that mediation had been undertaken.
Ms Lang has Asperger's syndrome, which can sometimes make her interrelations with people a challenge, and Mr Clark said the condition made her even more susceptible to Subway's abuse of process.
``Management called her into a meeting without telling her it was a disciplinary, gave her no chance to have representation and then blind-sided her with accusations of theft. She never had a chance.''
He said although Subway initially implied Ms Lang would face prosecution, none was brought until the union filed a case against them for unfair dismissal.
``As far as I can see the criminal charges are a clear attempt to keep her quiet about how she was treated by the company.''
NZPA WGT cw cm
Copyright 2007 New Zealand Press Association. Source: Financial Times Information Limited.
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