Wal-Mart wrong for firing employees who fought back

Most of the time, when someone disarms a gun-toting bandit without anyone getting hurt, they’re considered a hero and their actions are lauded.

However, one company doesn’t necessarily share this view and rightfully deserves legal actions against it for its irrational reaction to this type of incident.

When security officers noticed Trent Longton stealing a computer from a Layton, Utah, Walmart Supercenter earlier this month, they escorted the thief to the security office to await the police’s arrival.

While in the office, Longton pulled out a gun. Security guards Justin Richins and Shawn Ray grabbed Longton’s arms and guard Lori Poulsen grabbed the gun – the incident lasted only 23 seconds, according to Poulsen.

Despite the fact that these employees were attempting to preserve their lives, Wal-Mart found their actions to be a violation of company policy. The company didn’t just discipline the security guards – it fired them.

The employees are now suing Wal-Mart, a well deserved action after such unfair treatment.

“Like most companies, we have policies and procedures in place that are designed to ensure the safety of our asset protection associates, store associates and our customers,” said Dan Fogleman, a Wal-Mart spokesman, to the Salt Lake Tribune.

“Nothing is more important than our ability to protect our customers’ and associates’ safety and well-being. We always want to avoid having a situation escalate that could result in someone getting hurt,” he said.

Wal-Mart’s policy against employees using force to stop shoplifters may be one the company feels is in the best interest of protecting customers and employees. It’s also a way to protect Wal-Mart’s potential liability cost – in the form of lawsuits and liability insurance premiums – in the event of that someone gets hurt in a company-sponsored struggle.

Either way, a company shouldn’t be allowed to require its employees not to react in a defensive manner when a gun is used in a threatening fashion towards them. Doing so is human nature.

Beyond being unfair, the policy is just plain illogical. While Wal-Mart’s policy of prohibiting the use of force to apprehend shoplifters is understandable, using the policy to prevent security guards from disarming shoplifters who may kill someone is much different than beating up an unarmed teenager for stealing a video game.

The Walmart located on Fletcher Avenue near USF is in an East Tampa neighborhood that saw more rapes, burglaries, aggravated assaults and robberies in 2009 than the rest of the city, with more than twice the number of drug arrests than Historic Ybor, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

It’s scary to think that security guards at Walmart are not allowed, even if the opportunity is presented, to disarm gun-toting robbers. Considering the consequences they could face for doing so, it makes them all the more heroic.