If Wal-Mart fires for not following procedures…

George Rhynes asks if Wal-Mart can fire employees who disarmed an armed robber for not following procedures, why can’t the manager he says didn’t follow procedures when the manager fired him be fired in return? I wonder why Wal-Mart procedures and profit are more important than employee safety, well-being, or the drain on public resources to cover what Wal-Mart does not?

George Boston Rhynes wrote to Wal-Mart CEO and President Mike Duke and Board of Directors 20 February 2011, Wal-Mart Store 899 and 2615, Valdosta, Georgia and China Workers!

After nearly three years of being ignored by Wal-Mart Store Inc. I appeal to you once more; to take this opportunity to review, consider and investigate my three year old “wrongful termination” from Wal-Mart Store #2615 in Valdosta, Georgia. This is where Mr. Hal Harwell, Store Manager terminated me unfairly under the heading of “Inability to Perform Job” on March 2008.

If the EMPLOYEES were fired in Layton, Utah for DISOBEYING Wal-Mart’s Policy and they were. Then Store Manager Hal Harwell should also be FIRED for disobeying company policy. Store Manager Hal disobeyed company’s policies, guidelines, and procedures by denying me “GEORGE BOSTON RHYNES” equal rights as all other employees when it comes to being entered into Wal-Mart’s Four Weeks Training Program as hundreds of other Department 9, Sporting Goods Department Managers employed at Wal-Mart throughout the nation. {TITLE VII OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1991.}

I had a little trouble finding the case George is referring to, because google turns up so many cases of Wal-Mart employees being fired for not following procedures, such as Walmart Greeter Fired After She ‘Grabbed’ Customer (by Susanna Kim for abc News 9 July 2012)

A 73-year-old former Walmart greeter in St. Petersburg, Fla., says she’s been in a downward spiral and has had to sell her house after she was fired for grabbing an unruly customer on Black Friday last year.

“Walmart was my family. I didn’t have no family other than them,” [Janice] Sullivan told ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS’s reporter Kimberly Kuizon….

“I grabbed her to keep me from falling. That’s why I grabbed her,” she said.

Or this one, about an employee who ate on the job because she ouldn’t afford food on what they were paying her: Walmart Hits Oreo-Loving Worker With Felony Charge: 63-year-old fired, accused of theft (by Neal Colgrass for Newser 22 February 2013)

Walmart is slapping a former employee with felony charges after she allegedly ate the store’s Oreo cookies on the job, The Smoking Gun reports. Penny Winters, 63, admits to munching on Oreos at the Indiana store but says she noticed an open bag and considered them a gift from management. Surveillance footage, however, showed “Ms. Winters select the package of cookies, open it, and proceed to consume multiple cookies during her work shift,” according to a police report.

The report added that Winters admitted to stealing and eating other junk food, and said she “simply did not have the monies to legitimately purchase the food items.” So Walmart had her arrested, charged with felony theft, and fired her from the $11.40-per-hour maintenance job. She posted bond and was released from jail earlier this week.

OK, maybe she stole some cookies, but felony charges after firing her already? That seems a bit harsh.

But this seems to be the Utah gun-grabbing story George referred to; 4 Layton Walmart employees fired after disarming gunman caught shoplifting, (by Andrew Adams for Deseret News 9 February 2011)

The shoplifter smashed Gabriel Stewart up against a wall.

It didn’t take him long to realize that pressure against his lower back was from a loaded gun held by a desperate man who didn’t want to go to jail. The gunman had a firm grip on Stewart’s shoulder, telling him and three of his Walmart co-workers, “Don’t make me do this.”

“Absolutely time stopped,” Stewart told KSL. “I didn’t know what to do.”

Instantly, Shawn Ray and Justin Richins kicked into gear, spinning the gunman around. Lori Poulsen ripped the gun away and secured it. They all held on to the man until police arrived minutes later.

The four Layton Walmart employees felt it was mission accomplished. Police officers told them they had done everything right.

But a week later, all four were fired from their jobs. Walmart said their actions had violated company policy and put their fellow workers and shoppers at risk.

So apparently Walmart’s rules are more important than self-protection of their own employees, such as Janice Sullivan or the Utah four.

The Utah armed robber also turned out to be in illegal possession of the weapon:

Longton pleaded guilty to two charges Monday — robbery, a second-degree felony, and the purchase, transfer, possession or use of a dangerous weapon by a restricted person, a class A misdemeanor. In exchange for his plea, three other charges were dismissed, including threatening or using a dangerous weapon in a fight or quarrel. Longton is scheduled to be sentenced on March 28.

The four workers were full-time employees. Stewart had been with the company for more than 12 years. Poulsen, who was employed for more than seven years, had made Walmart a career. Ray said his dismissal kept him from purchasing a home.

“I honestly felt worse than when I had the gun to my back,” Stewart said. “I honestly felt betrayed.”

Apparently George also feels betrayed for being fired.

So why does Walmart do these things? The Deseret News story concludes:

“I’m surprised they would be fired — they’re defending their lives,” said David Lundberg, who was a police officer for 21 years, has additional security experience and now runs Utahdetective.com.

Lundberg believes concern over liability drives these policies.

“People slip and fall, get head injuries, that kind of stuff,” Lundberg said. “So that’s what stores are worried about is the liability — getting sued.”

Well, it would be horrible to let employees doing the right thing get in the way of corporate profits, I suppose. Or to let paying employees enough so they could afford food get in the way.

One of these stories has a happy continuation, but it’s not because of anything Walmart did to make that happen. Fired Walmart Greeter Gets More Help Than She Ever Imagined (Posted 12 July 2012 in Black Friday)

After she was denied unemployment benefits due to the nature of her termination, she fell into debt and was forced to sell her home. Now struggling to get by daily, her story was chronicled by the Tampa Bay Times in a moving article that inspired many to help. One such person, a former neighbor of Sullivan, began an Indiegogo.com page for her, urging others to help her raise money for the now debt stricken senior citizen. That page has now raised $2,500 as of this morning [finally $3,350], with a goal of $5000. But, that’s not the only Indiegogo page dedicated to Sullivan. It’s actually one of three, with another raising $170 and originating in Texas and one that has yet to make money, originating in Tennessee.

Sullivan, who doesn’t own a computer, said she never expected the outpouring of support, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Besides the fundraising on the web, others have offered checks, cash, housing, and even the simple gift of friendship.

“She just keeps saying, ‘I can’t believe how many people care about me.’” said Amy Wetherbee, the neighbor who began fundraising for Sullivan.

It’s good her neighbors next door and all over the Internet care, given her ex-employer doesn’t seem to. How would she afford to own a computer, even when she worked for Walmart? Wal-Mart pays so little its employees often have to rely on food stamps and public medical assistance such as emergency rooms because they can’t afford enough food or medical insurance. This is the same Walmart whose founding family helped buy a Georgia election, selling off part of our public education to private profiteers.

George has been telling stories of Wal-Mart managers for years now.

“First off, you have to know what your job is.” —Charles Judge
Maybe he and the rest of us will get justice for Wal-Mart’s actions. Maybe Georgia will even, as he recommends, reconsider its “at-will” work laws. Maybe if enough of the people of Georgia demand these things.