Six former Wal-Mart employees sued the corporate giant after they were fired for violating a company policy barring confrontations with armed customers. The case has made it all the way up to the Utah Supreme Court, which will decided what rights employees have to self-defense.
The former Wal-Mart workers contend that they have a right to self-defense at work that supersedes the company’s right to fire them. According to Wal-Mart’s policy, employees are supposed to disengage, withdraw, and call police when confronted by an armed customer or shoplifter.
This six employees suing Wal-Mart were fired for involvement in different instances of engaging in self-defense. One group of workers was fired after confronting a man who tried to shoplift a laptop, and then pulled a gun on the employees. The shoplifter allegedly shoved one of the workers against the wall, pointing the gun at his back. Another employee grabbed the gun and held the shoplifter until police arrived. Both employees were fired.
In another case, a Wal-Mart employee was fired for grabbing a running shoplifter who then pulled out a knife on the employee.
These employees argue that the state’s at-will employment law should have an exception allowing workers to defend themselves in cases where they are at risk of serious injury or death. Wal-Mart, on the other hand, argues that this kind of self-defense exception would take decisions away from the company and put them in the hands of the judiciary.
The debate over employee self-defense in this country is a delicate matter, politically charged with Second Amendment implications. For example, the gun rights debate was stirred up when a Psychiatrist used his own gun to stop a patient who had shot at him and previously killed a case worker. The hospital where the psychiatrist works does not allow employees to carry weapons, and that particular hospital’s policy is being questioned because the psychiatrist was able to save his own life as well as potentially others.
It is necessary for employers to make sure employees know their self-defense rights within company policy bounds and provide proper training.