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Gun sale dispute prompts manager to claim wrongful termination

Wrongful discharge lawsuits typically originate as a dispute between the employer and an employee who differs with one or more of the employer's policies. A wrongful termination lawsuit recently filed in Los Angeles provides something of an exception to this rule because it originated in a dispute between a store manager and a would-be customer.

The store in question was a sporting goods chain store in Downey that sold guns and rifles. The problem began when a middle-aged man wanted to purchase a firearm. The man passed the store's safety test, but, as the store manager was completing the paper work, the man became irritated and ran into the store's restricted area. He then retrieved his credit card and left the store.

The man returned two days later with a friend who assisted him in completing the federal registration form. When told that he was required to complete the form by himself, the man became agitated. After the ten-day waiting period expired, the man returned to pick up his gun. The manager was busy and did not have time to assist the man. The man again became angry and left the store.

The next day, he returned to the store and began to rant about the manager, saying, "I hate people like you . . . I hope you get fired." The manager refused to release the weapon and reported the incident to two off-site supervisors. They criticized her for not releasing the gun. When her request for a transfer to another store was denied, she resigned. She then sued the chain, alleging that she felt unsafe, that the chain ignored her safety and that its actions violated public policy and state and federal labor laws.

This case is in the very earliest stages, and its outcome cannot be predicted. Nevertheless, it demonstrates how the employer-employee relationship can be affected by other laws that embody the state's public policy. Anyone facing a similar situation may wish to consult an employment law attorney for advice on the law and facts that govern the situation.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Big 5 store manager quits after being forced to sell a gun to man she found threatening, suit says," Matt Hamilton, Feb. 7, 2017

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