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Thursday, 14 July 2011

(Really) Petty theft - grounds for suspension?

Hot on the heels of a French supermarket which backed down after threatening to sack an employee for "stealing" from a rubbish bin, comes an incident of a similar nature.

USB key (from Wikipedia, author Usb-thumb-drive.jpg: Evan-Amos)

This time around it concerns a store from one of the country's largest chains and a name known throughout many parts of the world, Carrefour.

As reported in the regional daily Le Dauphine Libéré, management at one of its stores just outside of the southern French city of Avignon has suspended two employees for, as the paper headlines the story "stealing a couple of pens and some chewing gum."

Now while that might tell part of the story and give the impression that management has meted out a punishment that seems inappropriate to the alleged crime committed, it remains a little misleading.

As the paper goes on to say, management claims to have caught the pair red-handed as they left the store, not just with a couple of pens and some gum but also a USB key.

"I just took the pens to use for work," Yassine, one of the men who has been suspended, told the newspaper.

"None of the products was on the shelf and they would all have ended up in the bin or being given to the Food Bank," he added.

Hmmn. The argument that a USB key - or a ballpoint or fountain pen for that matter - might, if thrown out, find its way to the Food Bank doesn't seem a very convincing line of defence does it?.

But perhaps the fact that the "hoard" taken by the two men is reckoned to be worth between 20 and 25 euros suggests that the store's management has rather overreacted.

It's hardly an amount to make a dent in Carrefour's profits.

Of course as far as the director of the store, Fabrice Bertin is concerned, that's not the point, nor the fact that Yassine has worked for Carrefour for the past six years.

"Theft is a serious offence and can result in a warning, a layoff or dismissal," he told the French website Le Post.

"For the moment the case is being investigated and I'll meet the two men on July 20 to decide what measures, if any, to take."

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