Rochester, N.Y. – A former manager at Big Lots in Irondequoit finds himself unemployed after he followed a shoplifter into a parking lot, hoping to assist the police in apprehending the perpetrator. Instead of receiving recognition for his efforts, Pat Guider was fired from his position.

The issue of shoplifting is rampant in New York State, with retailers experiencing a staggering loss of $4.4 billion to theft in just one year. Not only does this harm businesses, but it also impacts the state’s sales tax revenue, resulting in a loss of $176 million.

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On May 10, a shoplifting incident occurred at the Big Lots store on Hudson Avenue. Guider, the store manager, witnessed the shoplifter assaulting his assistant manager before attempting to flee the premises. Guider, believing that he was doing the right thing, followed the suspect from a distance while alerting 911 to his whereabouts, with the hope that the police would be able to make an arrest.

Unfortunately, the shoplifter managed to evade apprehension, but the consequences for Guider were far more severe. Two weeks after the incident, he was summoned to his district manager’s office, where he was terminated from his job. The company cited the shoplifting incident as the reason for his dismissal, despite his two decades of service and a positive performance review just one month prior.

When questioned about his actions, Guider maintained that he acted in accordance with what he believed was right and just. He also highlighted the distinction between shoplifting and the assault he witnessed, emphasizing that he was merely trying to prevent harm.

This is not an isolated incident, as there have been cases of other retail store managers losing their jobs due to their handling of shoplifters. A quick search on the internet would reveal a similar story involving a Big Lots manager in California.

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Attempts to contact Big Lots for their official stance on the matter were unsuccessful. Although emails were sent to the company, no response was received. However, a notice displayed in the Big Lots lunchroom warns employees against pursuing, detaining, or identifying customers.

In light of Guider’s dismissal, labor lawyer Paul Keneally from the law firm of Underberg & Kessler shared his perspective on the matter. Keneally suggested that companies often prioritize minimizing potential liabilities, leading them to establish policies preventing employees from taking any action against shoplifters. While recognizing the unfortunate circumstances, he emphasized the need for comprehensive training to equip employees in handling such situations.

Guider and his wife are now grappling with the challenges of obtaining health insurance, particularly because they have two college-aged sons. At 62 years old, Guider is uncertain about the prospects of finding another job.

Nonetheless, he remains hopeful, relying on his staunch faith. Guider trusts that everything will eventually fall into place, even if the journey ahead proves to be arduous.

This incident raises questions about store policies and their implications for employees. The New York Union for Retail Workers is advocating for legislation that would require violence prevention training for retail workers. Josh Kellermann, the union’s director of public policy, explained that companies enforce zero-tolerance policies due to the potential liability faced by employees once they operate outside the scope of their employment.

Additionally, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has established a specialized task force to combat retail theft. The task force conducts operations targeting shoplifters across the county, employing plainclothes deputies and collaborating closely with retailers to ensure the safety of their staff and customers.

As the debate surrounding confronting shoplifters continues, it remains evident that comprehensive training and clear guidelines are necessary for both employees and law enforcement to navigate these complex situations effectively.

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