Monday, May 21, 2012

Safeway Suspends Employee for Saving Pregnant Assault Victim

Once again, a man of honor gets in trouble for doing his job-

"Ryan Young, a meat clerk at the Del Rey Oaks Safeway, was minding his own business and doing his job, right up until Quyen van Tran, a customer, decided to beat his pregnant girlfriend in the store, in full view of other customers, and Young himself.

Young was not prepared to stand for this:

“Every few seconds he would turn around and push her and then he actually kicked her,” Young said. “I told him to calm down and he was just irate.”

Young said Tran refused to stop and jumped in to stop the assault."

For this brave and gentlemanly act, Mr. Young was suspended without pay by his employer. His offense? He failed to follow Company policy, when essentially mandates that employees stand around like sheep while innocent people, in this case a pregnant woman, are being assaulted.

This type of tragedy is not new, Wal-Mart has taken the same route with their employees in similar circumstances.

The easy and pathetically weak answer is to state that the employer has no choice but to take this type of action. The standard line is that our litigious society leaves employers civilly liable if their employees take action that could possible result in injures to the bad guy, the employee, or anyone else.

This ignores the truth. While Companies certainly have the right to provide direction for their employees, we cannot have a society in which fear of lawsuits and possible loss of one's job restrict individuals from providing assistance in cases in which  there is a clear and imminent threat to an innocent person.

Companies can of course direct employees to call the police and/or security. They can also have policies in place that recognize that there will be occasions when "going by the book" will result in more harm to a victim than will taking immediate and necessary action. The policy can note that there are instances in which every employee can assist in security matters. Barring that, I would hold that there would not be anything wrong with taking "corrective" action with the employee in a manner that does not cause him to suffer any loss of pay. Did anyone at Safeway consider bringing Mr, Young in to the office, retraining him in company safety polices, (With a proud smile clearly displayed on the supervisor's face) and simply allow him to go back to work? What kind of response can one offer for that suggestion? - "What if if it happens again?".

When dealing with situations such as this one, we have to remember that they are each million-to-one shots. They statistically do not happen. Let's avoid being silly to cover up our ridiculous fears of litigation.

Some may be angered by my suggestion that the employer retrain the employee. In response that that, I ask that people consider the fact that many people who have performed brave acts, but in doing so failed to follow policy, have had to be officially counseled to legally protect all persons involved, including the good guy. This happens to cops, firefighters, and other Public Safety personnel more often than one would expect.

A cop, for example, may have found himself in a situation either not covered by Department policy (Even when they are incredibly detailed) or where the specific circumstances made normal procedures unworkable, but nevertheless knew that he needed to do something. Like Mr. Young, the individual takes initiative and eliminates the immediate threat in an unorthodox manner. No one needs to be punished. He can even be commended for his bravery, but the rules will require that he is instructed that, when that particular act happens again, this is what we need you to do.

There was an occasion in ancient Sparta in which a Spartan soldier was both rewarded and fined for doing a good thing and fined for not going "by the book". During the days of Sparta's decline from power, the Theban General Empaminondas, after previously inflicting massive defeats of the Spartan army, came very close to taking the city itself. A young Spartan man named Isadas, unarmed and unclothed, broke past the ranks of his fellow soldiers and killed several of the enemy (No mean feat when one considers that he was stark naked among men armed and clad in bronze armor). After the Thebans withdraw, the Ephors (Priestly men who enforced Spartan law) crowned Isadas and also fined him for going into battle without armor.

Being crowned (presumably with a wreath of laurels on his head) was such an honor to the people of that time that we can hardly comprehend what Isadas felt. The sting of being fined was probably relatively mild in comparison to the elation that he experienced by being crowned. We can be certain that everyone, including the Ephors, was happy that Isadas did what he did,  but the rules had to be applied.

-The account is in Plutarch's Life of Agesilaus

Since Spartan soldiers were in fact the aristocracy, his family would probably be able to absorb the fine. The ability to have his exploits mentioned by his peers at the men's mess hall was no doubt well worth the financial loss. Other Spartan families may even have secretly contributed to Isadas' family.

Mr. Young, being a food store employee, in all likelihood does not possess the financial resources to miss out on any pay without falling behind.

I hope that Safeway changes their decision. Mr. Young acted as a Western Man should. God bless him.

If anyone finds an official website that is collecting contributions for Mr. Young, please let me know. We need people of his caliber.

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