Citing "theft of service" to account for an employee's abrupt firing last month, the management of a PetSmart based in Secaucus, New Jersey has itself come under fire for what is being called the unfair treatment of a well regarded employee. The service in question? Doggie day care.
Eric Favetta, 31, had been operations manager for the Secaucus branch since April 2009, when he had been transferred from another branch after successfully reorganizing and improving customer traffic there.
On the December evening in question, when the "theft" occurred, Favetta had agreed to continue working through the night, after having already worked his usual full day shift. Representatives from Martha Stewart's product division were scheduled for a morning tour and management wanted the store to look its best.
Favetta, who describes himself as an employee who happily goes "the extra mile," both for fellow employees and for the business proper, had only one concern to arrange for before he could begin the overnight shift: his three-year-old dog, Gizmo, a Belgian Malinois, which had already been home alone all day. Favetta did not want Gizmo to be alone nearly 24 hours, so he brought him to work and checked him into the deserted on-site doggie day care facilities. Favetta was working in the store alone that night, so it was up to him to check in on Gizmo through the night, which he said he did a couple of times each hour.
Two weeks later, Favetta was told that his use of the day care facilities was being regarded as a "theft of services," and he was terminated from his position. While none of the services offered by the doggie day care were used by Favetta or Gizmo, such as grooming, training, care given by a paid employee, management asserted that the mere use of the holding facility amounted to product theft.
An indignant Favetta went to his local newspaper to tell his story, and that is when the tables turned in his favor. After being asked to comment on the firing, PetSmart's corporate management sent the case to human resources, which resulted in Favetta being offered his position back, with a transfer to another store.
Although Favetta initially accepted the job, he later resigned in favor of a position as a dog handler, which he felt would be better in the long run. Though he had been returned to his job by PetSmarts's higher ups, he would still have been working with the people who had fired him, he told The Star Ledger's Karin Price Mueller.
Image: Mitsu Yasukawa/The Star-Ledger