A local court has ruled that the Shanghai Peace Hotel had the right to fire two veteran employees for stealing a couple of apples from the hotel's kitchen, Shanghai No.2 Intermediate People's Court said Tuesday.
The issue the court faced was whether a business could fire a worker for violating its employee policies if the infraction was minor and the worker had signed a perpetual contract.
The former employees, surnamed Zhang and Wang, had both worked for the hotel for more than 10 years when they were fired, according to a court press release. Zhang worked as a concierge and Wang was a switchboard operator. Both had signed contracts with the hotel that never needed to be renewed.
On February 14, a fellow employee told management that Zhang and Wang had snuck into the kitchen around 2 am two days before and taken the apples. Managers verified the complaint by examining hotel surveillance footage and then fired the pair for violating its policy against theft.
In response, Zhang and Wang filed a lawsuit against the hotel, demanding their jobs back and 3,500 yuan ($556) in compensation each for every month they were out of work.
In court, they argued that the apples weren't worth enough to constitute theft. They also made the case that eating the company's food didn't warrant a dismissal according to the employee handbook.
The hotel argued that the pair hadn't simply grabbed a bite from the kitchen while working. They had both left their posts and taken property that belonged to the hotel, which is theft.
The court determined that the hotel had the right to fire the employees because its employee manual complied with the country's labor laws and the hotel had informed both employees of its policies in advance.
Just because an employee has a perpetual contract doesn't mean that an employee can never be fired, said Wu Ling, a press officer with the court. "It only means that employees can work under more stable circumstances because they don't have to regularly renew their contracts," she said.
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