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Sunday, July 21, 2024

In California, bill introduced to prohibit employees from confronting shoplifters

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Athletic apparel chain Lululemon recently sent termination notices to two employees at a Georgia store, citing a violation of internal regulations.

The employees had reportedly attempted to restrain three men who stormed into the store in April and swiftly filled bags with merchandise.

Lululemon reviewed cell phone footage of the incident before notifying the employees of their termination for breaching company policy.

CNN reported that one of the fired employees shouted at the shoplifters from the store entrance, urging them to leave. Numerous other shoppers, including children, were present during the incident.

CNN also highlighted that the employees’ actions constituted a violation of Lululemon’s bylaws, which stipulate that employees should not physically confront shoplifters in the act or engage in resistance or pursuit.

In a recent press release, Lululemon defended its decision to terminate the employees and stated, “As shoplifting crimes continue to rise, we prohibit such behavior in our stores due to the potential escalation that could provoke individuals carrying weapons, leading to harm to our employees and shoppers.”

While the impact of shoplifting on businesses is undeniable, potential injuries or fatalities resulting from employee intervention could render the business liable.

Shoplifting has become a significant concern for retailers, leading to store closures or downsizing.

Major chains like Target reported a staggering $500 million in theft losses in the previous year alone, and both Walmart and Home Depot have faced challenges in dealing with shoplifting and assault incidents. These retailers fear that employee involvement may exacerbate the problem.

The severity of the situation prompted the introduction of a bill in California that would prohibit employee responses altogether.

“It doesn’t make sense to ask unarmed employees to confront robbers,” argued Senator Dave Cortes (D-San Jose), who sponsored the legislation (SB 553) aiming to safeguard employees through prohibition.

The bill also seeks to mandate training for employee responses to shootings and robberies, require businesses to document violent acts, and prohibit workplace violence.

Opposition to the bill has emerged from various groups, including the California Retailers Association (CRA). Rachel Michelin, President and CEO of the CRA, voiced concerns, stating, “This bill goes way too far. I think it will open the doors even wider for people to come in and steal from our stores.”

Korean-American retailers in Southern California, who have faced both large and small-scale robberies before and during the pandemic, share similar concerns.

“Confronting criminals is challenging because they may be armed, but we cannot instruct our employees to do nothing and allow crime to occur,” expressed a retailer in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. “We should consider developing a proper response manual and, if necessary, hiring armed guards.”

BY INSEONG CHOI   [support@koreadaily.com]