Worker cuts power, sets fire so she can leave work early

Employee repeatedly tripped circuit breakers, switched off phone lines, set fire in filing cabinet
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 06/24/2010

Some people will do anything to get off work, particularly one Florida woman who cut her company’s power and eventually set a fire in her office.

For some time, Bayonet Point Oxygen in the Tampa, Fla., area, experienced power and telephone outages. The company learned from the utilities that the switches were being pulled on purpose, but there were no clues as to who was doing it. Then, on May 12, 2009, a fire started in a filing cabinet and the office had to be evacuated. Afterwards, Bayonet Point told employees not to go into the office alone.

A few days later, customer service representive Michelle Perrino, 40, called in and said she couldn’t come in to work because the smoke had made her feel ill. When Bayonet Point told her she was fine the day before, she hung up, then called back and said she quit because she “could not work under such extreme conditions.”

Perrino had placed the spotlight on herself at an employee meeting, when she mentioned the fire had started in a filing cabinet. Bayonet Point had not told any employees where the fire started.

An investigation revealed Perinno had been alone in the office on the day the fire started and an interview with her former roommate revealed she had told him she tampered with the company’s phone lines so no calls came in, tripped the circuit breaker to cut the power and she started the fire, all so she would be sent home with pay.

Originally charged with arson, Perrino pleaded guilty to criminal mischief June 21 and will serve nine months in jail, followed by five years’ probation. She was also fined US$4,800 and prohibited from any contact with Bayonet Point or its employees.

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