You’ve got your dream job and it seems everything couldn’t be better. But then this happens. Someone breaks into your workplace with a knife, a gun, or both. Whether that’s a maniac or a robber, doesn’t matter, what matters is that your self-defense can cost you your job.
Your employee training says you should always avoid confrontation with an armed robber, but your instincts do not listen. Your decision to fight a criminal becomes a fireable offense. You end up standing there like Hamlet and there are two questions that you ask yourself. To fight or not fight? To lose or not to lose? But while you’re contemplating your existence you can get a punch in your face, or probably worse.
Disarm. Fire. Go to Federal Court.
Want to get fired with like no one else, with a touch of extreme? Here is what you need to do. First, disarm a criminal that breaks into your workplace. Second, wait for the police. Third, get fired. Does this seem too unreal to you? Well, here is what happened with Walmart workers in 2011. The workers were questioning a shoplifter who turned out had a gun. Without much thinking, the employees did what many would think was the right thing to do. They disarmed the man and waited for the police. Instead of raise and praise, they got fired. Walmart said they violated company policies and put other workers and customers at risk. The employees later sued the company for wrongful termination.
The Utah Supreme Court had to decide whether self-defense is a public policy exception to “at-will” employment, the rule that permits employers to fire workers for any reason. In September 2015, the court ruled in favor of the employees. The decision said that public policy that concerns safety overrules Walmart’s policy related to confrontations by employees. The ruling allowed for the case to continue in federal court.
Similar Case, Different Ruling
Walmart workers are not the only ones who got into such mess. A similar case happened in 2012 in West Virginia. In a retail store 7-Eleven, again was fired for disarming an armed robber. The company’s policy resembled the one Walmart had. It says that employees should not interfere in a store robbery. It seems like all these policies were written not for real life and people, without suspecting that a situation like this might actually happen.
The case went to court and guess what did the court rule. Alike in Utah, the West Virginia Supreme Court decided that a threatening danger is a public policy exception to the company’s right to fire “at-will” employees. However, to your surprise, in the end, the case went to a jury, which despite the initial decision ruled in favor of 7-Eleven.
So What to Do?
The two cases don’t really teach us a lesson. One ruled in favor of the employees while the other one didn’t. So, what should employees who find themselves in such horrid situations do? Well, if we turn to the ultimate self-defense approach, it says to obey the robbers. Give them everything you want, but don’t risk yours or anybody’s life. While this might sound like the most reasonable thing to do in theory, situations can be unpredictable. Suppose the criminal isn’t just there for the money but intends to do harm. Your instincts surely wouldn’t let you stand still.
While the 7-Eleven case disappoints, the Walmart case gives hope that this issue can go as far as to federal court. While the company laws do make sense in specific circumstances and do guarantee safety, in other situations they fail to do basic justice. What’s for sure is that nobody deserves to be fired for necessary self-defense.