A UT Dining Services employee was arrested last week and charged with assaulting her ex-boyfriend’s 79-year-old mother.
This is not the first time a Sodexho employee has gotten into trouble. Eureka Patterson, a popular Einstein Bros Bagels employee was arrested last April on two felony fraud charges. She had also been arrested on multiple charges ranging from petty theft to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. At the time, her previous arrests and charges were not known by Dining Services because background checks were not done. After the incident, Sodexho promised to more closely examine the backgrounds of its current and new employees.
However, when deli prep worker Erika Nicole Dennis was arrested in late August, her previously documented crimes had only consisted of misdemeanor arrests and not the felony charges needed for Sodexho to take action against its employees.
Elderly Woman Allegedly Beaten
On Friday, August 24, the Tampa Police Department arrested Dennis and charged her with battery of a victim over 65 for an incident early last August.
Dennis, was released at 3:57 p.m. the same day on $2,000 bond, but still faces a third degree felony charge for the crime.
The victim, who The Minaret has elected to keep unnamed, tried to escort Dennis out of her home after allegedly returning to find Dennis confronting Rohalio Carlos Arenas, who is Dennis’ ex-boyfriend and the victim’s son.
The victim reported that Dennis pushed her on the ground and punched her in the chest.
The victim sought medical attention in St. Joseph’s Hospital for leg and hip pain.
“A third degree felony is on the low side of the spectrum,” Tampa Police Corporal Jared Douds said, when asked about the severity of this crime.
“She could face more than one year in prison.”
Dining Services’ Policy
When asked about Dennis’ alleged crime, Amy Truong, Dining Services General Manager, said she was unaware of the situation.
“We are only able to access felonies when doing background checks.” As a part of Sodexho policy, an aspiring worker must note on their application if he or she was convicted of a felony in the past seven years.
Regardless of the answer, Sodexho does a background check focusing on felonies rather than misdemeanors.
Background checks of all Dining Service employees were evaluated after Patterson’s arrest. Patterson was immediately fired because there was proof of her crime.
Dennis’s record was evaluated and showed no prior felonies, however, Dennis was arrested on November 30, 2004 and on February 3, 2005 for driving with a suspended, revoked, or cancelled license. Those two arrests counted as misdemeanors of the second degree, and so did not disqualify her from employment.
Dennis’s most recent arrest did not prompt Dining Services to fire her because she did not plead guilty. Under policy, Dining Services cannot fire an employee unless there is proof of the worker committing the crime or if the worker pleads guilty. If a Sodexho employee has a long history of arrests, further action is pursued.
“We talk to Human Resources about what legal action we can take,” Truong said regarding policy towards employees found to have a criminal record during evaluations. “We can take action if they are guilty.”
The action taken depends upon the severity of the crime.
Local Pickup vs. Warrants
After the alleged crime was committed, Tampa Police could not locate Dennis, so the case was given to a detective. Dennis could only be arrested by Tampa Police because the crime was reported to them. At this point, Dennis was logged as part of a local pickup routine, in which felons are treated as less of a threat than those with a warrant, and are picked up when they happen to be found.
A warrant is more severe because the person is actively pursued after a judge signs a report demanding that police search for the felon until he or she is found or the victim decides not to press charges.
Eureka Patterson was arrested for the seventh time last month and charged with nine felonies and four misdemeanors.
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Editorial: Sodexho’s Role at UT
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