Rantz: Grocer says he was fired after defending himself against homeless assault
A 23-year-old grocer says he was fired after defending himself against a homeless man who attacked him. He knows he technically violated policy, but he hopes to shine a spotlight on what employees experience when there’s little support from management.
Theo says he was overseeing the self-checkout stand at a Tacoma grocery store when a homeless man started digging through the trash can located inside the store. Without security around, he says he stepped in to stop the man. Before he knew it, he was in a physical altercation.
This is the first time Theo dealt with this man but says his coworkers recognized him as a repeat nuisance for the store.
“When I told him to stop the first time, he ignored me,” Theo told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “So, I asked him again, politely. And then he screamed at me and told me to shut up. And so that’s when I started just cleaning up the mess that he was making — throwing the trash everywhere. And then I was putting it back in the bin, but he’s still digging through the trash.”
At that point, Theo says the homeless man threw some of the trash at him. Theo ignored the escalating aggression to keep picking up the mess the man was making. But then it got more dangerous. Theo says the homeless man threw a Monster energy drink can at him.
“That’s when I dodged back. And then he pushed me. So that’s when I like escorted him to the door,” Theo explained.
Theo admits that as words were exchanged between the two, he physically pushed the homeless man out of the store. The homeless man then punched Theo in the face and the two started to fight, according to the surveillance video.
Surveillance footage shared with the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH through a friend of Theo’s shows the homeless man throwing a punch. Theo then defended himself. At that point, Theo’s supervisor shows up to break it up and sends him on his lunch break.
Theo returned to work for his next shift two days later, but was told that he was being suspended as supervisors reviewed the incident.
“They said that that push made me the aggressor. So they had to suspend me until further notice,” Theo told me.
As he waited to learn his fate, he says coworkers and even some customers reached out to him to show support. But in those conversations, Theo says they told him he was being fired. Days later, he says that’s exactly what happened.
“I go in and then during this meeting, [my supervisor] really was like trying to talk to me, you know, be friendly. He didn’t want to fire me. But he said that the upper management — people higher than him — told [him] I had to be fired,” Theo said.
Theo doesn’t hold ill-will toward his supervisor, or the company. In fact, he wasn’t particularly happy there because of how difficult it is dealing with these kinds of issues.
“I wasn’t very mad, because I’ve been in the job for a while. So I’ve been dealing with a bunch of stuff like this for a long time, and I was already kind of fed up with it. I was thinking about looking for a new job, so I wasn’t very mad that they fired me,” Theo admitted.
He realizes he violated policy with the shove, even if it was justified given the abuse he suffered. But he does hope upper management uses this case to better understand the difficulties of the job.
Theo already has a new job that he’s looking forward to starting. And he has no regrets with how things unfolded.
“I don’t regret it because I hope this opens their eyes to, you know, having more security because people are getting fed up with this,” he said.
It’s refreshing to see someone his age who does not whine about being the victim of a policy he knows he broke. I think he was justified in pushing the abusive homeless man out of the grocery store, and, if his story is an accurate reflection of what happened, I would not have fired him. He deserves a workplace that does more to keep aggressive homeless individuals outside the store.
But it’s clear why grocery stores have policies against physical altercations with the public. In a lot of ways, he forced the company to react this way.
Still, in his termination, he brought attention to a serious issue that needs to be better addressed. This isn’t just an issue for one grocery store; it’s much bigger. Homelessness is out of control. Every day community leaders do nothing meaningful to get people off the streets, the higher the likelihood that something like what happened to Theo will happen again.
The manager at the store could not be reached for comment.
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