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Friday, March 23, 2018

Employees Do the Darndest Things

Nasser Larkem, formerly a Spanish translator with the New York City Department of Education (DOE), had a second job teaching at the French Institute in Manhattan. He would clock in each morning at his DOE office in Queens, do a little DOE work, and then leave -- while still clocked in at the DOE -- and drive to Manhattan for his teaching job. Then he'd teach, drive back to Queens, and clock out for the day. By this method, he stole 471.5 hours from the DOE, worth $15,540. This was one of the biggest time thefts ever prosecuted by the city's ethics board, according to the administrative law judge’s order.

After Larkem was caught, he first told a city investigator that his work product was better than that of his co-workers, making it all OK, he guessed. Although he initially promised to pay the DOE back, he later reneged and claimed that he had a "flexible work schedule" and refused to admit that he was working at the second job. Then, in September 2017, he sued the DOE for $900,000, claiming that he was a victim of discrimination based on his "linguistic characteristics" and was deprived of due process. The story has a happy ending because an administrative law judge has fined Larkem $20,000 for his misdeeds; assuming that this is in addition to the $15,540 he owes to the DOE.

Daniel Adams, a former employee at the Copper River Grill in Spartanburg, South Carolina, was arrested last weekend for releasing hundreds of crickets at his former place of employment, according to a release by the Spartanburg Sheriff's Office, while it was open for business and serving customers. Spartanburg Sheriff's Office Deputies said an employee working in the food line pulled out several coolers and found cups taped together with a small hole cut out and hundreds of crickets inside. Adams said he went to PetSmart at Westgate to purchase a few hundred crickets. He said he went to purchase Styrofoam cups and duct tape to make the containers that held the crickets. The incident happened while the business was open, and customers were inside eating.

Adams, who was caught on surveillance tape, said it was all a joke. He's been charged with "malicious tampering with human food." Fortunately for the Copper River Grill, only a few crickets actually made it to the dining area, so no real harm was done – right? The restaurant has since been treated for pests, and the owner was quoted as saying, "We have no idea what motivated this individual."

Common Sense Counsel: Maybe some of my readers could educate the owner of the Copper River Grill what could have motivated Daniel’s cricket attack! Maybe Daniel’s discharge meeting was not as positive as one would hope? Both incidents show that employees can always surprise you. Sometimes in not so good ways.

Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP offices in Opelika, AL and can be contacted at or 334-246-2901. Tommy’s Law Partner Robin Shea posted much of this on her Constangy blog this week.