A person who had worked for 26 years for the Community Hospital Association
in Boulder, Colorado, was fired and denied unemployment compensation after
admittedly taking remnants of toilet paper rolls that she believed to
be trash, found on the floor and on a shelf above the toilet paper holders.
The employee had been asked by a friend to collect the remnants so they
could be sent to GI’s in Iraq, who needed small rolls that would
fit in a pocket for use on missions. The employer said they had a zero
policy on theft and fired the employee.
The employee applied for unemployment benefits. The employer, who had
no written policy on theft, said that the coreless toilet paper rolls
were purchased so they could be used almost to the end. The hearing officer
found that the claimant had believed that the remnants she had taken were
trash, but that the remnants nevertheless belonged to the employer, and
taking them without the employer’s authorization constituted theft
and disqualified the employee from benefits. The Industrial Claim Appeals
Office upheld the hearing officer’s decision.
On appeal to the Colorado Court of Appeals, the court reviewed numerous
Colorado and other states’ decisions on similar issues and decided
after extensive analysis that the case must bee remanded to the hearing
officer for a finding of whether or not the employee acted “intentionally”
and “knowingly” (legal words of art) without a belief that
the remnants she took were trash.
Frankly, I am astounded that the state would expend the time and money
on a case like this, especially given the end use of the toilet paper
(no pun intended). If further developments in the Industrial Claim Appeals
Office are publicly reported, I will write further on the final decision.