The Case of the Canned Cat Feeder and Other HR Tales

Did you hear the one about the guy who got fired for getting married?

How about the transit worker arrested on charges she faked an on-duty armed robbery –complete with bullet holes — in order to collect a few grand in worker’s comp? Or the guy who got canned for feeding cats?

The stories you are about to read are true, but also interesting and a little weird maybe, which is why they’re here. Don’t go looking for any deep HR lessons. There aren’t any, except, maybe, you’ll remember these cases should something equally strange come up on your watch. In which case ask yourself: “Is my mom going read about how I canned the cat feeder and ask me why?” If you can live with the answer, do what you must.

Conflict of interest?

We begin with The Case of the Connubial Conflict.

There was this guy in Maine who was an insurance company auditor for the state. He fell in love with the assistant VP of an insurance company. They married. A few years later, when he was assigned to her company’s audit, he raised the conflict of interest question.

His supervisor told him to audit anyway. But, being the careful type — he was an auditor, after  all — he went up the ladder. The Bureau of Insurance got a legal opinion that there was a conflict, so it did what you by now know it did – the wrong thing. Instead of simply taking him off the case, the State of Maine fired him.

So the auditor did what you, by now, expect he did — he took it to arbitration.

And the arbitrator, after two days of testimony and two sets of briefs, did what you, by now, expect he did — he ordered reinstatement with full back pay and benefits.

Armed robbery or a bogus bust?

Now, The Case of the Bogus Bus Robbery Bust.

A Massachusetts bus driver claimed she was the victim of an armed robbery while on-duty. Local police, transit cops, and some other law enforcement rolled out to the scene when the driver reported she’d been shot at.

Her harrowing tale of being fired on four times, knocked down, and having her wallet stolen, was supplemented by three holes in her uniform jacket caused by the bullets that miraculously missed her.

While the police investigated, she filed a worker’s comp claim, collecting just shy of $10,000. Over time, say the police and prosecutors, her story unraveled. Now, nearly five years later, and after all sorts of legal proceedings, she’s headed for trial in the fall.

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Fired for feeding cats

We end with The Case of the Canned Cat Feeder.

Screen shot from Facebook (links don't work).

The 7-Up bottling worker fed the cats in the neighborhood of the plant because they were hungry. Feeding them, he told the Sacramento Press, helped him forget “everything else for awhile.”

Plenty there was for him to forget. His adult son is so physically disabled that he’s a dependent living at home. His wife has a debilitating illness that lead to multiple hospital visits last year. And a tumor found on his own kidney required its removal.

His company health insurance covered most of the expenses. Then, last month, he was fired. The reason: despite previous warnings, he continued “to feed the cats on company time and/or company property.” That’s what the termination notice said.

He’s not denying he was warned. He does insist he wasn’t feeding the cats on company time or company property.

On the other side, the bottler says it’s obliged by the Food and Drug Administration to avoid contamination. “Over the years,” a spokeswoman said, “we have seen an increased presence of feral cats on our property.

Cat lovers and their advocates have weighed-in on the issue. Facebook and animal lover forums have spread the story nationwide. There’s a petition circulating and even the Daily Koz has written about the bottler who canned the feeder of hungry kitties.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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