Aspiring Novelist Fired for Writing On the Job

A budding romance novelist was fired after her boss objected to the writing she was doing during her job at an industrial equipment manufacturer.

Tanja Shelton, 35, began working as a production control scheduler at Sioux Automation in Sioux Center in August. After her boss noticed Shelton typing almost constantly, a computer technician examined Shelton's computer and found what appeared to be a novel.

The work, titled "Taylorville," was about the summer activities and desires of a teenager named Taylor.

The company fired Shelton and fought her claim for unemployment benefits.

In a hearing before an administrative law judge, Shelton claimed her writing helped her hone her job skills during slow times at work. She testified the writing didn't violate a company policy prohibiting personal use of the computer because she was fine with anyone reading it.

The company entered an e-mail to Shelton from a friend into evidence.

"FINISH THE BOOK!!!!," the e-mail read. "Sure, it's a tawdry lust novel, but isn't that what people buy?"

Administrative Law Judge Lynette Donner denied the unemployment benefit request, saying Shelton showed "a willful or wanton disregard for the standard of behavior the employer has the right to expect from an employee."

Shelton said she has a journalism degree and has always enjoyed writing. She hopes to complete the novel within six months.

Company officials declined to comment on the matter.

The case is similar to one from last year, in which 26-year-old Emmalee Bauer of Elkhart was fired from a Des Moines hotel after she kept a journal on her work computer that detailed her efforts to avoid work.

Like Shelton, Bauer was denied unemployment benefits.