A cupcake decorator who was fired from her job after running over her ex-husband’s girlfriend is entitled to unemployment benefits, a judge has ruled.
Marilyn Meron, 31, of Waterloo, was employed as a decorator at the city’s Scratch Cupcakery outlet last year, icing cupcakes and other baked goods in the business’ kitchen.
On Sept. 10, 2020, Meron spoke to a supervisor and reported that five days earlier she had struck her ex-husband’s girlfriend with her car and then left the scene of the accident. The girlfriend, Katline Woods, had been taken to the University of Iowa with serious injuries, including broken bones and internal hemorrhaging.
After Meron was arrested, the story was picked up on social media and in the local press. Meron’s supervisor fired Meron through a text message that read, “I can’t put you back on the schedule. We can’t have you representing the company.”
Meron applied for unemployment benefits, which the company challenged. The case went before Administrative Law Judge Sean Nelson, who recently ruled in favor of Meron, noting that the misconduct she was punished for at work had occurred outside of the scope of her employment duties.
Nelson also pointed out that Meron’s work was in the kitchen, far away from any customers, with no public presence. While her conduct damaged the company’s reputational interest and violated its policy regarding illegal behavior, the company cannot show Meron acted with the intent to damage the employer’s interest, Nelson found.
“The administrative law judge is sympathetic with the employer’s position that it had to terminate (Meron) to protect its reputational interest,” Nelson ruled. “The claimant severely injured another woman by hitting her with her car and could have very easily killed her. This decision should not be read to excuse the claimant’s behavior; instead, it is one that reflects the very high standard the employer must show regarding misconduct off of its premises and unaffiliated with the claimant’s work.”
Police records indicate Meron had gone to the home of her former mother-in-law to speak to her ex-husband, Jacob, and while there she allegedly struck Woods in the face. Meron then tried to drive away, but Woods attempted to open the car door as Meron put the car in reverse. As Meron drove away, Woods was pulled under the vehicle and run over.
According to police, Meron told officers she was aware she had run over Woods but “freaked out” and left the scene.
Her trial on charges of serious injury by vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident is scheduled for June 15.