A Walmart manager from Alabama was fired after stepping outside the store to confront a shoplifter, who then punched him in the face.
Don Watson, who was night manager at the Prattville store, said he heard an alarm sound signal Jan. 5 that an emergency door had been opened, so he ran to investigate, reported AL.com.
Watson said he found a man he recognized as a habitual shoplifter taking a buggy outside that contained more than $1,100 in merchandise.
He confronted the man, who he said grabbed him, struck him in the face, and pulled him to the ground.
Security guards from a nearby apartment complex intervened until police arrived, and Roderick Gray was arrested and charged with first-degree robbery.
But Watson said he was fired 27 days later for “gross misconduct.”
The company said he failed to look out for his own welfare and did not comply with Walmart security procedures.
A company spokesman declined to comment on the personnel matter, but he said Walton placed himself in danger.
“We don’t think there is any amount of stolen merchandise that is worth anyone’s life,” said Walmart spokesman Aaron Mullins. “Associates are trained to follow certain security measures.”
“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,” the company spokesman added.
Watson admits he was trained not to follow shoplifters more than 10 feet outside the store, but he said the rule has been broken numerous times by other employees and he was unable to persuade loss prevention officers — who set their own schedules — to work overnight shifts.
He said the company ties employee bonuses to shoplifting rates at their stores.
Watson said his termination for gross misconduct makes him ineligible for jobs at other Walmart or Sam’s Club stores, and he said it would hurt his chances for employment elsewhere.
He hopes the retailer will allow him to appeal his termination, but mostly he just wants his job back.
“I went from making a decent living, making almost $50,000 a year, to nothing,” Watson said.
Updated 1:36 p.m. Feb. 6 to include additional statement by Walmart spokesman.