Dollar Store Defends Post-Child Porn Firing

     MILWAUKEE (CN) – Dollar General fired a man convicted of possessing graphic child pornography, only to have Wisconsin officials upbraid it for discrimination, the store claims in court.
     The Vonnegutian tale appears in a petition filed Thursday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court by Dolgen, the parent company of a Dollar General on South 27th Street that hired Michael Ionetz as its manager in May 2010.
     One month on the job, Ionetz was charged with 22 counts of child pornography, Dolgen says. The company’s complaint gives a sickening account of the data that the state claimed to have found on Ionetz’s hard drive.
     Dolgen says Ionetz continued to work while appearing in court on the charges, even asking the judge not to restrict his computer access since he needed the Internet to perform his job duties.
     Though the court barred Ionetz from having “contact with any person younger than eighteen years of age” as a special condition of his bond, “Ionetz continued to work and schedule himself as the only person working in the Milwaukee store, even though he was aware that children (under eighteen years of age) frequented the store and he would come into contact with them,” Dolgen claims.
     Ionetz never told his district manager about his bond conditions, and he pleaded no contest on Oct. 28 to five counts of “computer crime,” according to the complaint.
     Dolgen says the court read in one count of possession of child pornography.
     As part of Ionetz’s sentence of probation, the criminal court prohibited the man from entering locations where minors congregated – with a specific exclusion of working in a retail store where minors shopped, according to the complaint.
     Dollar General says it suspended Ionetz’s employment on Nov. 5 when he told a supervisor that his probation officer would be reaching out. That call with the officer was the first time the district manager “learned that Ionetz had any restrictions regarding his contact with minors or that he had been charged with 22 counts of child pornography,” according to the complaint.
     Since Ionetz’s Dollar General job required him to sometimes work in the store alone and have contact with minors, the district manager told Ionetz’s probation officer that the store could not accommodate the terms of his probation.
     Dolgen fired Ionetz soon thereafter, and it notes that a judge later refused Ionetz’s request to have the terms of his probation modified so that he could work a job that might leave him alone with minor customers.
     Ionetz’s restrictions continued to bar him from “unsupervised contact” with minors.
     Though the Equal Rights Division of the state’s Department of Workforce Development found that Dolgen did not discriminate in firing Ionetz, the Labor and Industry Review Commission recently overturned that decision.
     Finding that Ionetz’s conviction was not “substantially related to his job,” the commission ordered Dolgen to pay the man’s attorneys $27,000. It refused to award Ionetz backpay or reinstatement since the terms of his probation meant that he could not keep his Dollar General job. Nevertheless, store found that his firing discriminated on the basis of his conviction.
     While the commission “was presumably in the process of penning its” reversal, “Ionetz was once again arrested – this time for possessing 3,083 graphic pictures of pubescent and prepubescent children engaged in sexual acts,” Dolgen says.
     Ionetz, who turns 45 in November, is charged with 14 felony counts of possession of child pornography, according to online court records.
     Dolgen says it presented this to the commission, but that the appellate body refused to consider the information as evidence.
     Dolgen wants the court to review the commission decision, issued on June 25 and confirmed on Aug. 6.
     The commission had found Ionetz’s likelihood of recidivism low, and emphasized that his job did not afford “significant contact with computers.”
     “The nature of the accusations made against the complainant, upon which his arrest and criminal charges were based, are very disturbing to the commission,” the commissioners wrote. “But the language of the relevant statute requires the commission, in applying the substantial relationship test, to consider the elements of the offense for which the complainant was actually convicted, not the offense for which he was arrested or charged.”
     A representative for the commission referred comment requests to the state’s Department of Justice. A spokeswoman for the agency said they are reviewing the case.
     Ionetz’s attorney in his current criminal case could not be reached.

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