(Newser) – Usha Ram, who immigrated to Canada from Fiji in 1987 and speaks only basic English, had worked as a cook for Burger King for 24 years when she asked at the end of a shift in 2013 whether she could take a meal home for free because she'd forgotten her wallet. She and her manager were speaking Hindi at the time, and Ram thought the manager agreed. She took a fish sandwich, fries, and a drink with her—and when she came back to work three days later, she was fired over it. Now Ram, who supported a husband with physical disabilities and an adult daughter with mental disabilities with the minimum-wage job, has been vindicated: A Supreme Court judge in British Columbia awarded her approximately $35,000 in lost wages and damages, the CBC reports.
The judge noted that it was clear Ram hadn't planned to steal, made no attempt to hide what she'd done, and had no history of discipline at her job. The judge also wrote that firing wasn't a proportionate punishment, given Ram's long work history and "her economic vulnerability as a 55-year-old woman with little education." The National Post reports that the total amount Ram would have owed the restaurant, after applying store policies and employee discounts, was about 75 cents, and that her manager waited to see if Ram would pay it when she came back to work. When she did not, she was called into a meeting and told to leave the premises, despite then offering to pay what she owed. The co-owner called Ram a "good and valued" worker but told the court he has a "zero-tolerance" policy for theft. (This employee was fired over two $1.69 bottles of juice.)