Can You Get Fired For Eating A Coworker’s Food In New York State?
Admit it: it’s happened to you at least once. You put your lunch in the refrigerator at work, and by the time your lunch break rolls around, your lunch has gone M.I.A. Or maybe you’re on the other side of the situation and you are the one stealing food from the refrigerator that isn’t yours, and if that is you, why are you stealing?
If you have had your lunch stolen, you probably thought of several different ways to get revenge, especially if it happened more than once. You may have even considered planting a “spicy substitute” in the fridge to find out who has grabby hands.
But what if it was as easy as going to Human Resources and getting the lunch thief reprimanded in some way? After all, stealing someone’s lunch is still technically a form of theft, so is it against the law for someone to touch their coworker’s food in New York State?
Is it a fireable offense?
One person shared their experience on a Reddit thread after a coworker had repeatedly stolen his lunch for months, and they had enough.
“I ordered a bag of ‘Ghost Chilli Peppers’ and put the full bag into a big pot of chili that would last for several days. I took this into the office and had it for lunch every day. Midweek my lunch went missing and I was waiting for the person who was stealing my lunch to get a shock when they ate my lunch. What happened in reality was someone got sent home sick, and the next day they were off and I was told they went to the doctors for stomach pains.
Two weeks went by and the coworker who was off refused to talk about it and said HR was involved so I knew they were going to try to get me fired. I went home and ordered another bag of Ghost Chili's and made another batch of my chili, this time with only one chili in a single tub.
I put this In the freezer and the following Monday I was told I had a HR meeting that day. I refused and said they needed to give me 24 hours to find someone to come into the meeting with me and the next day I had my manager come into the meeting and brought in my (now heated) Ghost Chili infused Chili.
The long and short is I was told I could be fired for trying to poison the person who was stealing my lunch, and I asked if they admitted to stealing people's lunch, which they did. I then said I have a batch of the chili in question with me, and I like spicy food. My liking spicy food shouldn't stop me from having it at work since it doesn't smell when heated (like fish) and my manager agreed it was on the person who took my lunch without knowing how spicy it was, and I should not be held liable if they eat something of someone else's that doesn't agree with them.
My manager and I then ate some of the chili and offered it to the other people in the meeting, some of which tried it and agreed that while it was spicy it was clearly what I liked as I was fine eating it. The meeting ended and nothing happened. I wasn't taken into another meeting and my lunch wasn't taken anymore, but the person who had stolen our lunch got a slap on the wrist and was allowed to stay at work.
Lunches started to go missing again so my manager went to HR to say that lunches we're going missing and he knew who was taking it and had proof this time, and when they asked for the proof he presented the meeting record with the line highlighted where they admitted they had stolen lunch and the line where HR had said this was not what the meeting was about.
They were fired the next day for "Theft of property" and told they would not be given a reference.”
While it may not be outlined in explicit detail in your employee handbook, know that stealing a coworker’s lunch could very well get you fired in New York State…and/or the victim of Ghost Chili Peppers.
It shouldn’t have to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: don’t steal something that isn’t yours (clearly, right?) That goes for anything in life. More people need to be good people, and it all starts with you.