Former Big Lots manager says he was fired after following shoplifter outside store in an attempt to help cops locate suspect

News & Politics

A former manager at a Big Lots store in the Rochester, New York, area said he was fired after following a shoplifter — who took a swing at an employee — outside the store and into the parking lot to help police locate the suspect.

Pat Guider told WHEC-TV during an interview at his Irondequoit home that he saw the shoplifter take a swing at his assistant manager during the May 10 incident: “What I saw is that he took a swing, like a punch at [the assistant manager],” Guider said while making an uppercut motion with a clenched fist.

‘The good thing is we have a huge faith in God, a huge faith in God, and everything will work out. It’s just going to be difficult.’

Guider also told WHEC that’s the only reason he followed the shoplifter out of the store: “I let people who shoplift leave the store every day. Every day. We just put it in the system like they ask us to do. This was an assault. This wasn’t shoplifting. This was an assault.”

Guider told the station he followed the male at a distance through the parking lot of the store while relaying his location to 911 so police might catch the suspect.

The suspect got away — and Guider told WHEC he was fired over the incident.

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” he told the station.

Guider told WHEC that on May 29 he was called to his district manager’s office and fired over the incident — despite 20 years with the company and a positive review in March.

The station in its interview with Guider asked him, “Do you think you did the right thing?”

Guider replied to WHEC, “I think I did the right and just thing. The right and just thing.”

The station said its reporter found no phone number for Big Lots’ CEO or communication chief, so the reporter emailed the company on Tuesday — and then Wednesday and then on Friday — but Big Lots had not responded as of the story’s publication.

WHEC said a poster in the Big Lots lunchroom warns employees to “never leave the store to pursue, detain, or identify a customer.”

The station’s reporter asked labor lawyer Paul Keneally at Underberg & Kessler how Guider could have been fired for trying “to help police track down a shoplifter … how does that happen?”

Keneally told WHEC “the company is probably considering the liability of any sort of interaction between the perpetrator and store employee.”

The attorney added to the station that likely explains why Big Lots has “a rule in place that the employees are not to do anything, and it’s unfortunate because it sounds like this person was trying to do the right thing.”

Guider told WHEC, “I did not put myself in jeopardy. I did not put any shoppers in jeopardy.”

Now without a job — and with two sons in college — Guider noted to the station that he and his wife are trying to figure out how to get health insurance. What’s more, at age 62, Guider added to WHEC he’s not sure how easy it will be to find another job.

“The good thing is we have a huge faith in God, a huge faith in God, and everything will work out,” he noted to the station. “It’s just going to be difficult. It’s going to be difficult.”

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