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WINNIPEG, Canada -- A Winnipeg woman won a wrongful termination lawsuit against 7-Eleven after her 27-year career came to an abrupt end during a corporate "sting" operation, according to a report by the Winnipeg Free Press.
Beverly Salkeld was caught on two occasions selling cigarettes without asking for identification from a 24-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman who were hired by the company to pose as customers. Although the so-called "mystery shoppers" were legally of age, 7-Eleven has a policy requiring employees to ask everyone who appears to be under 30 for proof of age.
Salkeld, 52, was fired by the convenience chain in December 2008 based on another company policy that states an employee's first violation will result in a warning, and the second in termination. The move came despite the fact Salkeld regularly scored high on performance reviews and was deemed a hard-working and loyal employee, the newspaper reported.
Salkeld challenged her dismissal in court, claiming she had no idea the male mystery shopper was younger than 30. During the trial, her lawyers called the man to testify and he said he'd done approximately 40 mystery shops at 7-Eleven during a two-month period, with only "three or four" employees asking questions about his age. The woman's lawyers also presented surveillance video of the purchase in question.
Queen's Bench Justice Lori Spivak agreed with Salkeld's position, saying she could have easily mistaken him for an older man and therefore, wouldn't have felt the need to ask for photo identification. "The imposition of discipline occurred without regard to whether an employee believed the person to be over 30 and whether that assessment was reasonable," Spivak wrote in her ruling. "7-Eleven's decision to dismiss was made on the basis that Ms. Salkeld breached the policy on two occasions, and I have found she did not."
7-Eleven representative Kerry Swan testified on behalf of the retailer and admitted the company's policy is "subjective" because it requires employees to make judgment calls about the ages of customers -- with the reality that a mistake in judging age is considered a "failure." Swan said the policy, which was enacted in 2004, is important to ensure minors aren't allowed to buy cigarettes and to protect 7-Eleven from possible fines or license suspensions.
Salkeld began working for 7-Eleven in 1981 and was making an annual salary with benefits of $34,467.08 at the time of her dismissal. The court has ordered 7-Eleven to pay her the equivalent of 14 months of salary, which comes out to just over $40,000 in severance, the report stated.