HR Strange But True!
July 28, 2011

Last summer, a man was terminated for stealing from his employer. What was in his loot? That would be two leftover hot dogs from the company Fourth of July picnic. In addition to losing his job, he recently had to battle in court for unemployment benefits.

What happened. Last July 4th, a Dillards store had a cookout for their employees. The manager wanted the leftovers to be frozen and saved for Labor Day, so he told employees to bring extras to the company freezer. The manager believed all employees, including Nolan Koewler, heard the instructions.

The next day, Koewler took two hot dogs from the workroom refrigerator and ate them. Unbeknownst to the employee, his manager reviewed the surveillance video and reported the theft to the store manager.

According to court documents, a police officer was called in and Koewler was given the choice to sign a statement admitting he was the hot dog thief or spend the night in jail. He signed the statement and was later terminated.

Battle for unemployment insurance benefits. In August 2010, an agent of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development found that Koewler was not terminated for just cause and granted him unemployment insurance (UI) benefits. Dillards appealed the decision until it reached the Review Board of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development. The Board reversed the ruling, finding that the employee was discharged for just cause and should therefore be denied UI benefits. Koewler brought the case to Indiana’s Court of Appeals.

The appeals court ruled in favor of the employee, noting that “theft requires a knowing or intentional exertion of unauthorized control. The Board’s determination of the ultimate fact that Koewler was terminated for just cause as a hot dog thief is not reasonable.”

The court document is available online.

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