Jobless benefits update: Abuse, harassment and ‘Weenie Bite’ ruminations

By: - July 26, 2021 9:27 am

An Iowa nursing home worker who was fired after refusing to let a visitor enter the building due to COVID-19 restrictions has been awarded jobless benefits for keeping residents of the home safe. (Photo by Getty Images)

Hundreds of Iowans left jobless amid allegations of harassment, ethics violations and other forms of misconduct have had their claims for unemployment benefits decided by an administrative law judge in recent weeks.

In some cases, the workers were found to have committed misconduct, while other cases involve employers whose actions left the workers with no choice but to resign.

An example of the latter involves Jason Snow, who was employed by the City of Moravia as a fire chief and, later, as an administrative supervisor. Snow resigned last September after a series of conflicts with city council member George Robinson.

According to the findings of Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Adkisson, Robinson asked Snow to resign as fire chief. Robinson had previously served as chief and he said he wanted to return to the job. When Snow told Robinson he would have to apply for the job, Robinson was angered.

Later, in his capacity as a city council member, Robinson allegedly began interfering in Snow’s work and “constantly micromanaged” Snow by requiring him to run all decisions past him.

In September 2020, Robinson allegedly ordered Snow to place rock in front of his house. Snow refused, believing it was unethical for a city official to perform work at a council member’s home on city time. He complained to Mayor Roy Miller, but the issues were not resolved and Snow quit.

He was awarded benefits, with Adkisson finding that any “reasonable person would quit under the circumstances.”

Among the other Iowans who were recently awarded or denied unemployment benefits:

  • Carrie Lantz, who worked for Sioux City’s MercyOne Siouxland Medical Center as a patient access representative. She was fired in January when a co-worker reported hearing Lantz discussing President Joe Biden “opening up” the borders and saying, “They are going to take all our jobs.” The hospital reviewed Lantz’s past conduct and found that in March 2020, she had been given a warning for making insensitive statements about an individual from Somalia who received public assistance. An administrative law judge denied Lantz’s request for unemployment benefits, finding that she had violated Mercy’s code of conduct policy by making “inappropriate comments about race and economic status after having been warned.”
  • Brandie Stanton, who worked for First Resources, a non-profit agency that serves people with disabilities and mental health issues. In February, she tested positive for COVID-19 and revealed that fact on her Facebook page, which also listed her employer. She was subsequently fired for “divulging company information on social media.” An administrative law judge awarded her benefits, noting that Stanton “merely posted to her Facebook wall that she had tested positive for COVID-19.”
  • Casady Slocum, who worked at the Grinnell Day Care Center as a teacher from 2018 until she was fired last December. Her termination stemmed from an incident in which she allegedly took a child into a bathroom, where there are no video cameras, and spanked the child. The employer had a video recording showing the two entering the bathroom, where another worker allegedly witnessed the spanking, and then leaving the bathroom with the child in tears. Slocum was denied benefits.
  • James Fleming, who was fired in March from his job as a McDonald’s shift manager. A female employee had complained Fleming had pulled her hair and smacked her buttocks with his hand. During an internal investigation, Fleming allegedly admitted that he engaged with male co-workers by grabbing them by the groin and their buttocks — a practice he called “nut taps.” He was denied benefits.
  • Shawn Collins, who worked for Cobratype Computers as an operations manager until his termination in March. Collins was fired for violating a company policy that prohibits employees from displaying or discussing sexually explicit images on any computers that customers bring in for repair or return. After Collins discovered explicit photos on one such computer, he allegedly told his colleagues what he had found and invited them into his office to see the photos, which they agreed to do. Collins was fired and later collected $6,903 in regular unemployment benefits and $5,400 in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation benefits. An administrative law judge ruled Collins need not repay the regular benefits since Cobratype Computers didn’t participate in the initial stage of determining Collins’ his eligibility, but the  pandemic-related benefits will have to be repaid.
  • Stacey Washington, who worked for Prestage Foods of Iowa as a production team member through September of last year when he was fired for abusing and mishandling live animals at the company’s meat processing plant. Washington unloaded live hogs from a truck without first installing the sides on the ramp leading from the truck, causing a hog to fall. Without intervening, Washington stood by as two more hogs toppled from the ramp. The animals then had to be euthanized. Washington was denied benefits.
  • Louis Jordan, who worked as a merchandising coordinator for the video distribution company The Right Stuf Inc., until he was fired in February. The company had investigated Jordan’s web-browsing history for a particular day due to a lack of progress on his work assignments. It was determined that Jordan had been watching movies that day — including “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story” and “The Wizard of Oz” — while on the clock. After Jordan failed to offer any assurances that this behavior wouldn’t continue, he was fired. He was denied benefits.
  • Sheldon Whipp, who worked for Custom Blacksmithing and Manufacturing until he was fired in January. He was accused of watching a female coworker in the breakroom grabbing a hot dog from a crockpot and then telling the woman, “If I knew you’d better, I’d tease you about eating that.” At a hearing on his request for unemployment benefits, Whipp testified the co-worker’s actions reminded him of a traditional event at motorcycle rallies — known as the Weenie Bite — which involves women riding on the back of moving motorcycles while using only their mouths to retrieve mayonnaise-dipped hot dogs dangling overhead on a string. “For some reason,” Administrative Law Judge Blair Bennett ruled, Whipp “was reminded of this game” but wasn’t given the chance to explain that to his employer. Bennett awarded Whipp unemployment benefits.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.