Lululemon fires employees for trying to stop robbery, CEO defends decision

Calvin McDonald, the CEO of Lululemon, defended the firing of two employees who attempted to stop a robbery in one of the stores in May, stating that the employee code of conduct was broken

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BS Web Team New Delhi

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Lululemon, a multinational apparel company based in Canada, faces significant criticism following the termination of two female employees who attempted to intervene during a robbery at one of their stores in Georgia.

The robbery

In May, a Lululemon store in Atlanta, Georgia, was targeted by three masked robbers who brazenly stole high-priced athletic wear from the retailer. According to media reports, the goods were worth nearly $7,000.

The incident was captured on video, with one of the employees filming the robbery.

In the video, two employees, Jennifer Ferguson and Rachel Rogers, could be heard shouting at the robbers, repeatedly yelling "No" and "Get out".

The robbers left the store and returned inside to grab more merchandise before leaving. Ferguson and Rogers followed the robbers out of the store to try and catch the number plates of their vehicles and called the police. The video clearly shows that the employees did not physically confront the robbers.

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The video became viral when Rogers and Ferguson were fired after the incident.

The Gwinnett Police Department found the three masked men and charged them with felony robbery charges, as reported by the New York Post.

The thieves had reportedly targeted the store multiple times before.

Employee response 

Following the robbery, Ferguson and Rogers were accused of violating company policy by involving law enforcement and their employment was terminated through a Zoom call.

The employees told local TV station 11Alive that they were unaware of the specific policy and did not receive severance pay.

Ferguson also stated that they are not meant to interact with robbers or stand in their way. Adding, "After it's over, you scan a QR code. And that's that. We've been told not to put it in any notes, because that might scare other people. We're not supposed to call the police, not really supposed to talk about it."

Lululemon CEO defends the termination

In an interview with CNBC, Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald defended the company's actions. He re-iterated Ferguson, stating that employees are instructed to scan a QR code after a robbery occurs and refrain from making any notes or contacting the police.

McDonald emphasised that Lululemon prioritises the safety of its employees and customers and views stolen merchandise as secondary to this concern. He mentioned that employees are trained to step back, allow theft to happen, and rely on the store's technology and collaboration with law enforcement.

McDonald clarified that the employees were not fired for reporting the robbery but for failing to adhere to company policy, which advises against engaging with thieves. He added that Lululemon's protocol aims to maintain the safety of its team and customers and that the company values technology and cooperation with law enforcement.

The backlash

The firing of two Lululemon employees who attempted to stop a robbery at one of the company's stores has generated controversy. While the employees argue that they were unaware of the specific policy, the CEO maintains that the terminations were due to a breach of company guidelines. The incident raises questions about the balance between employee safety and property protection in the retail industry.

The Dailymail reported that this was one of many incidents where employees in the US have been instructed not to intervene in incidents of robbery. The report noted another incident in California where an employee was fired after following thieves out of a Big Lots store in May.

First Published: Jun 6 2023 | 4:22 PM IST

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