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Ready, fire, aim: Grocery clerk stops shoplifter, loses job

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in Firing,HR Management,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Preventing Workplace Violence

File this one under “no good deed goes unpunished.” Michigan grocery clerk John Schultz says he lost his job after trying to thwart the getaway of an alleged shoplifter.

The firing offense? Touching a customer.

Schultz was on a break when he heard a ruckus near the front door of the Whole Foods store where he worked. When a manager chasing down the thief yelled for help, Schultz and other employees cornered the man near a gas station across the street. While waiting for police to arrive, the shoplifter tried to make a break for it. As he ran by, Schultz grabbed the man’s coat. But the manager told him to release the shoplifter, who promptly took off, this time for good.

The next day, Christmas Eve, Schultz was called into the manager’s office and was fired for violating a company policy that prohibits physical contact with customers. Schultz protested that (1) he was on a break when the incident occurred, (2) the contact occurred off Whole Foods property and (3) the shoplifter wasn’t a customer.

No dice. The five-year employee still lost his job. “He is still considered an employee of Whole Foods Market regardless of where he was and what was happening,” a company spokesperson told The Ann Arbor News.

This story has generated untold amounts of bad publicity for Whole Foods, a company with an established reputation for customer care. One suspects that Schultz's firing may have stemmed from the overzealous application of an anti-violence policy. Maybe a workplace violence policy such as this one, which spells out exactly what kind of workplace behavior is and is not permissible, would have given this story a happier ending.

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