On the same day a New York Walmart fired a full-time, long-time employee for redeeming $5 in discarded cans and bottles he picked up in the parking lot, another Walmart in the state terminated a worker for, perhaps, an even more ridiculous reason — he waited more than a second to turn in $350 he found in the parking lot. Michael Walsh initially found a $5 bill in the parking lot — something most would have kept — and turned it over to management immediately.
When Walsh went back outside to pick up garbage and gather shopping cards, he found something that would have helped quite a bit over the holidays, had he kept it — a stack of bills totaling $350. Once again, the employee had the integrity to turn in the money. Walsh picked up the money and finished his work in the parking lot, counted it, stuffed it inside his pocket, and went in the store to turn it in. Once he was inside, he noticed a customer yelling at a manager about money she had lost — so he decided to wait.
“A woman was yelling at a manager, freaking out that she lost her money and I got nervous,” said Walsh, has anxiety issues. “I kind of froze and didn’t want any trouble.” He continued about his work day, cleaning the bathrooms and performing his other tasks and gave the manager the $350 about 30 minutes after he found it. The employee did not intend to keep the money, he didn’t steal it — he just wanted to avoid problems that would likely have arisen with a belligerent customer. The manager took the money, and the matter seemed settled until two days later.
Walsh was shown a time-stamped security tape that confirmed only 30 minutes had passed between the moment he picked up the money and when he turned it in. Nevertheless, he was fired for “gross misconduct” because he waited too long. Walsh told the Times Union:
They didn’t let me explain and said they knew what happened. They told me how it happened in a way they wanted it to go.”
Walsh was told to sign a statement, but was not given a copy, then was told to turn in his badge and his employee 10 percent discount card, ending his 10-year employment at this Walmart. Walsh had also previously worked at other Walmarts for a total of about 18 years with the company.
“I enjoyed my job, I was a good employee and always got to work on time,” he said. “I got treated like a common criminal.” Walsh says that in all the time he worked for Walmart, he was not given an employee handbook or information about a company policy regarding items found in the parking lot. He had just received a raise in September to $14.35 an hour — near the cap for a maintenance worker. He says he is heartbroken because he was robbed of his 20 percent holiday discount and fell short of a lifetime 10-percent discount awarded to 20-year employees.
“I was really looking forward to that lifetime discount card in two more years,” Walsh said. “They took that from me.” Now, Walsh has much greater worries. He is struggling to pay his $680 rent and car payment, and his wife is on disability for depression and anxiety. He has applied for maintenance jobs at Target, Lowe’s, and other businesses, and is waiting to hear back. The now-jobless former Walmart employee says he is shocked by their decision to terminate him.
“I got scared and didn’t go about returning the money in the right way,” he said. “I told them I was sorry. I thought they would have given me a warning or suspended me. Instead, they just fired me.”
Perhaps fortune will smile on Walsh as it did the (former) Walmart employee who was fired for redeeming cans, who was hired by a property maintenance company at $12 an hour — $3 more than he made at the big box store.
Featured Image via Times Union