Secretary fired over meatball snack after 34 years on the job

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Secretary fired over meatball snack after 34 years on the job
Photo: Rainer Zens

A Dortmund secretary is fighting for her job of 34 years after being fired for snacking on a meatball from a conference buffet on the job, daily Bild reported on Wednesday.


Magdalene H. had worked for the North Rhine-Westphalian building association in Dortmund for more than three decades only to be fired for taking two rolls and a Frikadelle, a German meatball specialty, after setting up a meal for her boss and his guests.

But later a colleague noticed that food was missing and her boss confronted her, the paper said. When she admitted to eating the food, she was sacked.

On Tuesday, Magdalene H. faced her employer, building association head Hermann Schulte-Hiltrop, in court to request that he give her a warning instead, saying the incident was not a classic case of theft.

“She believed her behaviour was in order,” her lawyer Wolfgang Pinkepank said. “Bread and Frikadellen that are left over after conferences are allowed to be eaten by workers. If she had been reprimanded she would not have done it again.”

But Schulte-Hiltrop, 51, told the court he would not change his decision.

“From the outside it naturally looks like a minor offence,” he said. “But we work on highly sensitive information here. And if you don’t trust someone any longer, it’s not a good feeling.”

Meanwhile lawyer Pinkepank said that at 59, his client would likely not find another position.

Official court proceedings will begin in January 2010, the judge said.

In a similar case, a Berlin court ruled in February 2009 that a former cashier for the Kaiser’s supermarket chain was rightfully fired after allegedly taking €1.30 in bottle deposits, though she maintains the termination was because of her union activities.

The woman, identified as Barbara E. but dubbed “Emmely” by the German media, had worked as a cashier for 30 years, but the company said the incident could no longer trust her. The case has inspired union-related solidarity groups and made national headlines, making her a minor celebrity.


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