Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fired for Commuting to Work on a Segway? No Way!

by Christine Lepisto, Berlin

Could you get fired for riding your Segway to work? What if it needs a charge to get you back home again so you plug it in to your employer's socket?

Of course, you cannot answer such a question without a little bit of context. Maybe the guy parked his Segway in the boss' office. Maybe it was just the last in a long line of provocations.

But in this case, the context allows no such conclusion. The employee in question is a 41-year old computer technician, with 19 years of blemish-free performance. He rented a Segway to give it a try. So, could he be fired for that?

The answer is "yes". And "no". Yes, a German computer technician was fired for "stealing" 1.8 Euro cents worth of electricity to recharge his Segway. Without even a warning: the employee removed the vehicle immediately when his boss made the request/demand (hence the calculated 1.8 cents for time on the charger).

And no, the employer did not get away with it. The final appeal has been decided, common sense reigns once again. Although the court did not dismiss the potential illegality of the petty offense, it voided the employer's decision as disproportionate to the value of the "stolen" goods and the length of the employee's service to the company.

Such cases cause great indignation in the general public, spurring lots of discussion. But we feel the media coverage overlooks an important that perhaps should even be considered under the relevant points of law, and which is the reason the word stolen appears in quotations in this commentary: Employees who drive to work frequently benefit from a free parking spot. Bicyclists are granted a place to safely lock and store their bike. This is even required under building codes that demand a certain number of spaces be available for cars and bikes. What does it cost a company in working capitol costs and maintenance to provide these perks?

In this case, all's well that ends well. The employee plans to continue working in the company, and has been elected by his peers in his absence to the worker's council, where he can represent the case for including alternative transportation solutions in the company's social policies. We encourage progressive companies everywhere to consider this case, and set up policies so that employees on the front line of change for the better can stay on the right side of ethical and legal lines... read more story at