“The actions of a Kroger store manager who shot and killed a would-be robber inside the grocery store are being hailed by many as heroic,” indystar.com reports. “But it’s also likely that the manager violated company rules on bringing guns into the workplace. That thrusts Kroger into an awkward and unenviable place — front and center in the midst of a polarizing public debate over whether guns belong in the workplace.” Really? I reckon only gun control advocates and media mavens get their knickers in a twist about concealed carry permit holders carrying a concealed weapon in the workplace. Incidents like this one—where an employee shoots an armed robber in the head—are hardly likely to get Joe Q. Public’s anti-gun dander up. Quite the opposite. No, the real story here is Kroger’s dilemma . . .
Under Indiana law, Kroger is allowed to decide whether or not to let employees bring guns to work. And if an employee breaks a company rule, Kroger is under no legal obligation to discipline or fire him — or to make its decision public.
The problem, Indianapolis lawyer Michael Blickman said, is that not disciplining Elliott would open the door for some legal risk in the future.
Gun owners aren’t necessarily trained in how to deal with dangerous situations. If another employee one day fires a gun and accidentally hurts an innocent person, the company could become liable if it’s thought to be permissive of workplace weapon use, said Blickman, a partner in the labor and employment group at Ice Miller.
Shooting the bad guy holding a gun to your buddy’s back seems pretty straightforward to me. Still, point taken. It’s all about the insurance. Profit and loss. (Hey, it’s the American way.) Meanwhile, the supermarket chain must negotiate a PR minefield.
Disciplining or firing the employee is no easy fix either, Blickman said, “given that most people are likely relieved at the outcome.”
Kroger has to be wondering whether coming down hard on the employee could lead to a boycott, Blickman said — or worse. “What if there’s an organized effort by the NRA?” . . .
Rep. Mike Speedy, R-Indianapolis, who sponsored the recent gun bill, agreed with Tomes.
“This could have turned out a different way if that employee was not carrying,” Speedy said. “Kroger could have two dead employees. What value is their policy then?”
On the other hand, not all shoppers would feel entirely comfortable if they thought the produce guy might be a wanna-be Wyatt Earp.
Was that crack really necessary? Never mind. Kroger didn’t get to the top of the supermarket heap by pissing off its customers. Sensibly enough, they’re following TTAG’s post-DGU advice: STFU.
Kroger’s spokesman Elliott said the company will kick off an internal investigation but that it will take some time before figuring out how to proceed.
“As you could imagine,” John Elliott said, “this decision is going to involve multiple decision-makers.”
And lots and lots of time. Meanwhile, Kroger’s current no-guns-at-work policy remains in place.