A conscientious Walmart night manager who apprehended a man he described as a habitual shoplifter was fired for gross misconduct by the retail chain.
The manager also got punched in the face by the suspect during the early January scuffle, although he fortunately wasn’t hurt.
Don Watson, the manager of a Prattville, Alabama, Walmart, spotted the suspect leaving with store from the emergency door with stolen goods and chased him across the street where a security guard at a nearby apartment complex helped him hold the alleged shoplifter until police arrived.
“When I caught up to the individual he turned and grabbed me, struck me in the face and dragged me to the ground. I got loose and was holding him down,” Watson told AL.com.
The shoplifting suspect faces a charge of robbery for allegedly trying to steal about $1,000 worth of merchandise from the Walmart store. The same individual allegedly stole about $3,500 of goods over the prior nine days from the same store, and is suspected of theft at another Walmart store in the area.
No security guard (referred to as a loss prevention officer in corporate speak) was on duty at the store that night.
Word reportedly came down this week that Watson was terminated for violating company security protocol. The ex-manager admitted that under Walmart corporate training, no shoplifter should be pursued more than 10 feet outside the store, but that this particular rule is regularly disregarded.
“I am expected to keep the shoplifting at a minimum,” Watson noted, inasmuch as theft is apparently subtracted from the bonuses workers receive. “It was just kind of strange,” he added. “It was strange that they came to this conclusion after 27 days. I thought I was protecting the company.”
The gross misconduct designation for the separation means the former manager is ineligible for rehiring at another Walmart or Sam’s Club store and could hamper his efforts to find employment elsewhere. Gross misconduct is not what you would call a resume enhancer.
“We have measures in place for the safety of our associates as well as our customers in situations like this, and rely on law enforcement to take the lead on apprehension,” a Walmart representative told the New York Daily News.
The policy may primarily be implemented for legal liability reasons in that Walmart (or any other similarly situated enterprise) doesn’t want to get sued by an employee or customer injured in any shoplifting-related physical confrontation.
In April, 2014, for example, a brave Kroger manager in Texas who disarmed a knife-wielding shoplifting suspect wound up fired for his trouble. In October, 2013, Lowe’s terminated a long-time employee and grandmother for chasing a man out to the parking lot who allegedly was stealing a $600 toolkit.
The fired Walmart manager is attempting to appeal his termination with executives at the retail giant’s Arkansas corporate headquarters.