VA hospital allows man who lost job over $.89 drink refill to return to work

VA hospital allows man who lost job over $.89 drink refill to return to work

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A North Charleston man who lost his job after originally being federally charged for an $.89 drink refill has gotten his job back.

Christopher Lewis, an on-site construction worker at the VA Medical Center in downtown Charleston, was told he could return to work, according to Lewis' fiancee.

The news follows on the heels of Thursday's announcement by VA officials that authorities would reverse their decision of giving Lewis a $525 fine, and instead be given a warning.

"In reviewing the case, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center has determined a warning in lieu of a citation is sufficient in this case," a statement released by the VA stated on Thursday.

Lewis said on Wednesday he didn't know refills at the VA Medical Center came at a price, and during his lunch hour, he was originally slapped with federal charges. The ticket was issued by the Federal Police Force at the center after Lewis refilled his soda without paying $0.89.

A hospital spokesperson on Wednesday called it a "theft of government property."

"Every time I look at the ticket, it's unbelievable to me,” Lewis said on Wednesday. “I can't fathom the fact that I made a $0.89 mistake that cost me $525."

According to a hospital spokesperson, signs are posted in the cafeteria informing patrons that refills aren't free. Lewis says he never noticed the signs and admits he had refilled his drink without paying on other occasions. He says after he went back for seconds on Wednesday, a man who identified himself as the chief of police, stopped him.

"As I was filling my cup up, I turned to walk off and a fella grabbed me by the arm and asked me was I going to pay for that, and I told him I wasn't aware that I had to pay for that."

Lewis says he tried to pay the $0.89 right there, but wasn't allowed to. He says he wasn't given the chance to pay the cashier either.

"I never had an option to make right what I had done wrong."

He says he was taken to a room, given the $525 ticket for shoplifting and told not to return to the property.

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