Retail workers in New York who try to stop shoplifters would not be at risk of losing their jobs or being punished by their bosses under legislation proposed by a Long Island state lawmaker.
Many retail companies have told workers to avoid confrontations with thieves over liability and safety concerns.
Adding insult to injury, some employees who tried to stop thieves from stealing have been fired or disciplined.
Enough is enough, said Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick (R-Smithtown).
His bill would protect employees from retaliation by an employer if they confront or attempt to confront an individual to prevent theft.
“The current explosion in retail theft, which shows no signs of subsiding. The unfortunate outcome has resulted in job loss for many employees who react to these crimes by intervening in an attempt to stop these criminals,” Fitzpatrick said in the memo explaining his anti-retaliation/jobs protection bill.
He said the measure does not advocate employee interactions with shoplifters, and agreed that it’s “common sense” for stores to have trained security personnel to handle lawbreakers.
But neither should workers be fired or punished for trying to stop criminals from raiding their stores, he said.
In 2022, more than 63,000 reports for retail theft were made — a 45% jump from 2021 when just over 43,000 complaints were recorded. In 2019, the tally was just under 38,000.
Fitzpatrick said the last straw came when he recently witnessed a shoplifter wearing a bucket hat and sunglasses walk out of his local Target store with a fully loaded cart.
“I chased the guy down in the parking lot and said, `Let the cart go.’ He said, “Mind your own business,’” he recalled.
The thief ran off, and the assemblyman brought the cart with unpaid items back into the store. An employee thanked him, noting workers are forbidden from confronting shoplifters.
“I’m so sick of seeing this happen,” he said.
Fitzpatrick said he was hopeful that the proposal would garner bipartisan support when the legislature reconvenes in January.
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