Ray Agosta literally took company policy into his own hands. Captured on security cameras and spotted by a loss prevention officer, Agosta was caught taking five items to his car he had not checked out of the store. However, when Agosta’s story for taking the items didn’t check out either, the cost to Agosta was more than just the bill for the food; he paid by losing his job.
Agosta, a manager at a Toronto area Longo’s grocery store, was caught taking a few small items out of the store he had not paid for. When questioned, he argued the items were samples, given to him by their supplier. But even when taking samples from the store, company policy required all employees to seek permission from the store manager. After an investigation, Longo’s fired Agosta. Agosta responded by suing Longo’s for wrongful dismissal.
At trial, Longo’s relied on its policy for removing items from the store, stating that employees caught taking items without permission "will be subject to disciplinary action which may or may not include termination, arrest and prosecution." Further, it argued that even though the amounts that Agosta took ere minimal, like yogurt and cream cheese, loss prevention is taken very seriously in the grocery business and Agosta had known and adhered to its policies before. For his part, Agosta argued that he had always asked for, and was consistently given approval to remove items from the store in the past.
Loss prevention in supermarkets is centered around Supermarket Shrink. It deals with the loss of profits due to several factors including shoplifting, goods expiring, and employee theft. In a survey approved by the American National Grocers Association, it was reported that employee theft was the largest category of shrink, making it a major theft prevention policy factor.
Recently, an Ontario judge sided with Longo’s and found that Agosta knew, understood and consistently followed the policy to get a manager’s consent before taking any items from the store. The fact that Agosta had always been given permission to take items in the past didn’t eliminate his responsibility to seek consent every time he considered taking a product from the store.
Justice Moore J. found that Agosta’s termination was justified, agreeing with Longo’s argument that Agosta could no longer be trusted.
Company policies can sway the outcome of a trial. In this case, the judge relied on five factors that companies must generally establish in order for a breach of a company policy to justify an employee’s immediate dismissal:
- the rules must be distributed;
- the rules must be known by the employees;
- the rules must be clear and understandable;
- the rules must be consistently enforced; and
- employees must be warned that they will be terminated if a rule is breached
As the case of Ray Agosta shows us, breaching policy can have serious consequences when the policy is properly applied.
For Agosta, it cost him his job.
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