CHANNELVIEW, TEXAS (04/22/15) – As per KFOR-4 News of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, a Popeye’s restaurant was robbed by an armed man who forced the employees to lie down on the floor, except for shift manager, Marissa Holcomb, who he directed to open the safe and give him the money in it. She had no ability to open the safe and he then demanded the money in all cash registers. She complied and the thief fled with $400.
Upon learning of the armed robbery, she says her manager told her she had to pay the store the $400 stolen by the robber or her employment would be terminated.
At the time of the armed robbery, Ms. Holcomb was pregnant with her fourth child.
Her employment was terminated less than 36 hours after the robbery took place.
According to KHOU-11 News of Houston, Texas, Amin Dhanani, Z&H Foods’ (holding company for the Popeye’s franchise) owner, abruptly changed his tune because of having to face the media firestorm, and now claimed she wasn’t fired for refusing to pay the money back. She was let go because she did not put sales proceeds from the registers in the safe in a timely manner, and that during the robbery, the registers contained more money than they should have.
Ms. Holcomb counters that the $400 was what the store made in the hour before the robbery. She explained that the restaurant was too busy to follow the safe procedure because of a Tuesday lunch special for a 2-piece chicken meal for $1.19, which attracted a lot of patrons.
A day after the story broke on station KHOU-11, Dhanani met with Ms. Holcomb, apologized, and offered her her job back. He also offered her back pay in the amount of $2,000. She was not sure if she would accept the offer or look for something else. She said she needs a means to support her children, but is wary of later being fired by Dhanani for some other unfair reason.
Ms. Holcomb later accepted a job offer from a different Popeye’s restaurant in town instead of going back to a workplace where, after being roughed up by an armed robber while pregnant, the employer only cared about making her pay the $400 proceeds of the robbery back and fired her.
As reported by USA Today, Ms. Holcomb is now suing her former employer for $5.5 million for emotional distress. She certainly was under considerable distress, having first been terrorized by an armed robber while pregnant, where if she did not give the robber the money in the registers, it would be fair to say she and her unborn baby may have been shot and killed. Then, after that incident her employer had no sympathy whatsoever and demands $400 from her. When the employer did not get the $400 from her, they fired her less than 36 hours later, again with no sympathy whatsoever for a pregnant woman, who also has 3 other children to provide for, and who went through the trauma of being held at gunpoint by an armed robber who was there, not for any wrongdoing of Ms. Holcomb, but because he wanted the restaurant’s money.
Raymond Dinsmore with DinsmoreStark handles employment related legal issues. You can visit his site at www.dinsmorestark.com or call 413-341-3639.