THEFT, Burden of proof, Intent
CITE AS: Crawford v Capstar Management Co, LP, Washtenaw Circuit Court, No. 99-10866-AE (March 24, 2000)
Appeal pending: No
Claimant: Leon Crawford
Employer: Capstar Management Co, LP
Docket No. B1999-01951-RO1-151858W
CIRCUIT COURT HOLDING: Employer has the burden of proving a claimant actually committed a theft for the actions to be disqualifying. That means employer must establish all of the elements of theft; including establishing ownership of the involved property and that the taking was done with felonious intent.
FACTS: Claimant worked in employer’s hotel as a houseman. Employer discharged claimant for stealing a “Bic” lighter valued at $0.89. Claimant testified employer had a “finder-keeper” policy for items left by hotel guests. Under employer’s policy, the employee would turn in an item left by a guest, employer would put the employee’s name on the item, and employer would give the item to the employee if unclaimed after a waiting period. Claimant found a jacket and turned it in; after the waiting period expired it was unclaimed. Claimant discovered the jacket had not been marked with his name. He looked through the pockets for the owner’s identification and found a “Bic” lighter. Claimant took the lighter, informed his supervisor, and she told him she was glad he found the lighter. Claimant testified he believed he was acting in accordance with employer’s policy. Employer was not at the hearing.
DECISION: Claimant is not disqualified under 29(1)(i).
RATIONALE: Theft is not defined in the M.E.S. Act. Under common law, larceny is the “taking and carrying away of the property of another, done with felonious intent and without the owner’s consent.” People v Gimotty, 216 Mich App 254 (1996). The Referee described claimant’s actions as “tantamount to theft,” conceding that he did not actually commit theft. The record did not establish the legal “owner” of the property. It was not clear whether the owner consented to claimant’s actions. Employer, “by virtue of its policy of allowing employees to keep item found, essentially disclaimed ownership rights to the property. Claimant lacked the required felonious intent because he believed employer was holding the item for him subject to a waiting period and claim by the rightful owner.