A Pennsylvania police officer who was fired from his side job at Walmart for showing up at the chain store armed while working for the police department is telling his side of the story- and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture.
38-year-old Taylor Police Department Officer Michael Zuby initiated a lawsuit against Walmart last year with the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, with court documents claiming he was not only wrongfully terminated but would have been forced to violate state code in order to be in compliance.
“I never thought I would find myself pursuing a lawsuit in my lifetime,” Zuby told Leo Affairs in an interview on Wednesday.
Zuby had been working as a part-time officer in the Taylor police force when he originally gained employment with Walmart in July of 2015, taking on a full-time position as an Asset Protection employee. According to Zuby and court documentation, Walmart was aware at the time of his hire that he was also employed with TPD as a Municipal Police Officer.
Shortly after being offered the job, Zuby even received a pay raise. In fact, relations were so good between Zuby and his Walmart employers that they not only attended his police academy graduation but helped donate money for K9 ballistic vests, presenting a giant check for $4500 on stage at the event.
While Zuby is not a full-time officer (in an agency where 7 full-time officers are on duty at any given time) he still maintains a 30+ hour work week with TPD, albeit without benefits- something he relied on his job at Walmart to provide.
In the summer of 2015, Zuby entered the Walmart for his lunch break while he was performing his police duties and stopped by the Asset Protection office. Upon arrival, he was confronted by Walmart Asset Protection Manager Charles Hamm, who apparently was taken aback by the sight of an armed and uniformed Zuby.
“Woah, you have a gun,” Hamm said.
Hamm was referring of course to Zuby’s service pistol- a well-seasoned Glock 17 that had been passed down by Zuby’s brother, a long time veteran of Taylor PD.
While Zuby protested that he was on-duty and not working for Walmart at the time, Hamm told him that as a Walmart associate, he could not carry on Walmart property at any time, a conflict with Zuby’s state-bound orders to be armed in the line of duty.
Following the incident, Zuby was informed by his Chief thad Walmart had requested he not respond to calls at the retail store. When the Chief refused, they asked that Zuby show up to calls unarmed- a request as humiliating as it was impractical.
“I felt devastated,” Zuby said. “I mean, how can I serve the community without being fully prepared to protect myself or others with every tool made available to me by the state?”
In September of 2015, Walmart gave Zuby a choice- agree to move his job to a further-away location or be fired. The request was a no-win situation for Zuby, who would still have to respond to calls in the districts where his alternative stores were located. Furthermore, his state responsibilities required him to act in the event of a crime and thus gave him an overriding right to carry openly or concealed, something Walmart was not willing to reconcile with.
In short, Zuby was let go over a policy that violated his state obligations as a police officer, outlined by Pennsylvania law.
Suing on the grounds of wrongful discharge, Zuby says he holds no animosity towards the employees of the Walmarts involved, where he as responded to calls dozens of times in the past.
“I believe in the American worker, in supporting one’s family,” he said. “I just want to get what I deserve when it comes to the benefits and income I lost because of all this.”
Now, heading into the courtroom, Zuby says there is more at stake than just his benefits- in addition to a reputation and employment record, he also has to defend the family name, which has served the community of Taylor for around two decades.
“I feel like I’m being stomped on,” Zuby lamented. “I have a reputation to protect. That is very important to me.”
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