Walmart employee claims he was fired for redeeming cans; store says he was fired for theft

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UPDATE: According to Walmart Media Relations, “Smith was terminated due to theft inside of the store and has signed a statement admitting to the crime.”

EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. (Nov. 20, 2015) – A New York Walmart employee says he was fired after redeeming $5.10 in empty cans and bottles.

But the store says he was responsible for a theft inside the store and signed a statement admitting to the crime.

Thomas Smith, 52, worked at Walmart Supercenter, where he was paid $9 an hour to gather shopping carts. Customers often left behind trash, including cans and bottles. Smith picked them up and redeemed them on two occasions at the store, according to the Albany Times-Union.

On Nov. 6, he was fired after being called into the security office, where a manager and two security staffers questioned him. The manager said Smith’s decision to redeem the bottles and cans at the store equated to theft of Walmart property and violated company policy.

“I didn’t know you couldn’t take empties left behind. They were garbage,” Smith told the newspaper. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain myself. They told me to turn in my badge.”

He was fired just hours at the end of his shift. He’d agreed to work extra that day because the store was short on employees.

The manager asked Smith to pay back the $5.10, but he didn’t have cash on him. He eventually paid back the money. Smith, on parole after being released from prison in May, served time in prison for a bank robbery in 2002. He said the robbery was to fuel a drug habit and said he’s turned his life around.

“I did the right thing and stayed out of trouble. I worked hard and did a good job. I ended up getting a raw deal,” Smith told the newspaper.