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Workplace self-defense and wrongful termination

We all understand that some workplaces are inherently dangerous. In most cases, these dangers arise from safety hazards present on the work site. Examples of dangerous industries include mining, construction and warehouse work. However, other industries and jobs may also expose workers to a very specific danger: personal attack or injury.

Some of these jobs include pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, jewelry store workers and bank workers just to name a few. Even retail store employees could find themselves in danger of a personal attack. In these situations, the first thoughts that occur to those facing an attack center on their right to self-defense. It is safe to assume that everyone would attempt to defend his or her personal safety when faced with an imminent threat. What they may not expect is to be terminated for their actions.

Many companies have specific policies in place forbidding them to engage if a threat occurs. A fairly well-known incident involving Walmart workers and a gun-wielding shoplifter provides one of the best examples. The workers defended themselves from the shoplifter because they believed their lives were in danger. Walmart, in turn, fired the workers because they went against company policy which mandated that they should have disengaged, withdrawn and alerted the authorities.

The point we hope to make is that being fired for self-defense feels unfair. Is it wrongful termination? The answer to that question is tricky. However, we encourage West Virginia workers to speak with an employment law attorney about their case if they were fired under similar circumstances.

The Walmart case is not yet over, but the Supreme Court of the state in which the incident occurred ruled that a worker could not be terminated when acting in self-defense under the threat of serious bodily harm or death. Our website contains additional information about wrongful termination in the state of West Virginia.

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