A judge in Radolfzell rejected an appeal from the woman, ruling that the Konstanz employer's decision to fire the 58-year-old woman in April 2009 was lawful.
Despite the worth of the Maultaschen being just a few euros, the “employer alone decided what should be done with its property,” a court statement said.
The woman was aware that employees were not allowed to take leftover patient food home, the judge determined. Although she claimed employees frequently flouted the rule, the judge said she was supposed to pay the employee meal price of €3.35.
The case is the most recent in a series of controversial firings for incidents involving low-value items that have been characterised as theft by employers.
A Dortmund secretary recently made headlines for being fired after 34 years on the job for snagging a meatball after setting a conference buffet for her employer, the North Rhine-Westphalian building association in Dortmund. The company later retracted her dismissal in response to public public outrage.
The 59-year-old secretary, identified as Magdalene H., had worked for the building association for more than three decades, but was fired in July for taking two rolls and a Frikadelle, a German meatball specialty, after setting up a meal for her boss and his guests.
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 meant it could no longer trust her. The case has inspired union-related solidarity groups and made national headlines, making her a minor celebrity.