Kroger and Retailers and Workplace Safety and Retail and Real Estate & Retail and Workplace Issues

Fatal shooting creates human resources issue for Kroger

December 28, 2011

Kroger officials are reviewing the actions of a manager who fatally shot a would-be robber inside a grocery store while it was busy with customers, a company spokesman said.

Indianapolis police have said no charges are expected in Monday night's shooting by the 24-year-old manager at the store on the city's northwest side. The manager shot 26-year-old Jeremy Atkinson of Indianapolis after he forced an employee to the store's office, but police haven't said whether Atkinson had a gun.

Kroger spokesman John Elliott told Fox59 that the company has an employee gun policy but wouldn't discuss it. A copy of a Kroger employee handbook obtained by Fox59 says employees are not allowed to bring firearms onto company premises at any time.

"Kroger is not making any comment until the final internal investigation is completed and we decide how to proceed next," he said. ""We are not commenting on what our gun policy is. That will lead to follow up questions that we can’t answer at this time." 

State legislators in 2010 passed a law that allows employees to leave a gun in a locked car in a company parking lot — regardless of the company's rules on firearms in the workplace. But state law still allows private employers to decide whether to let employees bring guns into stores or factories.

The problem is that not disciplining the manager could lead to future legal risk for Kroger, said Michael Blickman, an employment law attorney in Indianapolis.

Gun owners aren't necessarily trained in how to deal with dangerous situations. If another employee one day fires a gun and accidentally hurts an innocent person, the company could become liable if it's thought to be permissive about weapons in the workplace, Blickman said.

Indeed, that's why many companies have a no-guns-allowed rule in the first place.

"It's one of the most commonly adopted rules, whether you are a large employer or a small employer," Blickman said.

Kroger has to be wondering whether coming down hard on the employee could lead to a boycott, Blickman said — or worse. "What if there's an organized effort by the NRA?"

Sen. Jim Tomes, R-Wadesville, who has sponsored legislation broadening the legal rights of gun owners, said he disagreed with companies not allowing guns at the workplace, but he has no plans to propose a law prohibiting workplace gun bans.

"I would hope that employers would recognize that their employees have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," Tomes said. "If they chose a policy that jeopardizes any of those, they have to accept the responsibility."

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