TAYLOR, Penn. – A police officer that works in the borough of Taylor has sued Walmart for wrongful termination in his role in asset protection (AP).
Michael Zuby’s primary employer is the Taylor Police Department. He has been employed there since Oct. 2014. As a second job, he worked for the local Walmart in asset protection. But that didn’t last long.
Walmart hired Zuby in July 2015. He believed his status as a police officer was a benefit during the hiring process.
Shortly after he began working for Walmart, he stopped in for lunch while on duty working for the police department. He was armed and in full uniform. According to Zuby’s lawsuit, the asset protection manager for several Walmart stores in the area, Charles Hamm, said, “Whoa, you have a gun.”
Hamm proceeded to inform Zuby he could not be armed on the premises, even as a cop.
Zuby didn’t think he had to explain the obvious as he informed Hamm that he was working as an on duty police officer for the borough of Taylor and required to be armed.
No one mentioned a conflict of interest being an armed police officer on Walmart property when he was hired for asset protection. As a matter of fact, Zuby said the police department responds almost daily to Walmart for various calls for service, and there has never been an issue.
The lawsuit states the store then twice requested a letter from the borough prohibiting Officer Zuby from entering Walmart property while on duty as a police officer, reported The Times Tribune.
According to the lawsuit, which calls the request “illegal,” the police chief refused both times, noting the officer may have to respond to a call there as the business is in the jurisdiction of the police department.
Walmart policy bans employees from carrying weapons of any kind while on company property, but that was not the issue here, said Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for the company.
The conflict of interest of Michael Zuby serving as both a police officer and a store AP in his police jurisdiction concerned the company, Mr. Hargrove said.
Walmart tried to find a remedy, Mr. Hargrove said, by offering Officer Zuby a different position at the Taylor store at the same pay rate, or another AP position at the Pittston or Dickson City stores. Zuby said it didn’t matter what his position was; the same issue would exist. He knew that would not change his circumstances, so there was no need to accept another assignment.
Walmart terminated Zuby Sept. 19, 2015. Indirectly, Hamm directed the local AP manager to fire Zuby for violating company policy regarding the firearm issue.
He filed a lawsuit September 2016.
Zuby referred LET to the lawsuit, which outlines the Walmart policy as follows:
Except as provided below, you may not have or use weapons of any kind, such as firearms (loaded or unloaded, authentic or imitation), illegal knives or explosives:
- While at work on our property (whether on the clock or during breaks and meal periods);
- In a personal vehicle on our property while you were at work (whether on the clock or during breaks and meal periods);
- In a Walmart vehicle at any time;
- While conducting official Walmart business, regardless of location; or
- While attending any type of Walmart function, regardless of location.
Zuby said he was terminated for violating policy. After the lawsuit was filed, the reason for his termination appeared to change, at least from his perspective. It morphed from “violation of policy” to “conflict of interest.”
He finds that interesting since Walmart’s interest in his services pre-hire appeared to be his experience as a police officer. Then he was fired for violating a policy that he doesn’t believe was violated. Now the reason given for his release is categorized as a conflict of interest.
Zuby emphasized that Walmart asked him to violate public policy Title 18, section 5104.1 A1 of the Pennsylvania Crimes code or face termination. He said this is the key part of the lawsuit.
Legal counsel for Walmart filed a motion to dismiss Zuby’s lawsuit Dec. 18. The motion is under review by the judge.
While the lawsuit by Zuby simply requests an amount greater than $50,000, there are other issues at stake. He does not have health care benefits in his role with the borough of Taylor, but he did with Walmart. Yet of greater concern, he also has to cope with being terminated for violating policy, something that has a detrimental effect on his credibility as a police officer.