Best Buy employees fired for trying to stop shoplifter

Employee tackled man fleeing with electronics but company policy forbid physical contact with anyone
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 10/26/2009

Two employees at a Colorado Best Buy store made a valiant effort to stop a shoplifter who fled the store with valuable electronic equipment — and were rewarded for their efforts by being fired.

Jared Bergstresser, 20, and Colin Trapp, 23, were employees in the asset protection unit of a Best Buy in Broomfield, Colo. Asset protection employees wear company-issued polo shirts and stand near the front doors but are not security guards. Bergstresser, a three-year employee, was in the unit for two years and Trapp for six months.

On Aug. 1, 2009, the two men were on duty when a man grabbed computer hard drives and mobile phones and ran towards the front door. Bergstresser tackled him outside the store and Trapp ran over to help him out. The shoplifter drew a knife and slashed at the hand of a store manager who joined the altercation before he broke loose and ran towards a waiting car.

Two weeks later, Bergstresser, who had a few scrapes from the fracas, and Trapp were fired. Bergstresser knew from training for the asset protection unit physical contact with a customer, even a shoplifter, was against company policy, but said he hadn’t been trained in how to deal with a shoplifter at all. Trapp said he hadn’t received any training.

“I knew I wasn’t supposed to tackle the guy,” said Bergstresser. “It’s to protect (Best Buy) from getting sued.”

However, Trapp felt the firing was a harsh response, especially considering the lack of proper training for that type of situation and the fact the fired employees thought they were acting in the interest of the store. He was considering filing a wrongful termination suit.

“It wasn’t recognized, it wasn’t viewed as heroic, it wasn’t viewed as loyal,” said Trapp. “I feel like I was wronged when I tried to protect the company.”

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