The Real Canadian Superstore's parent company is standing behind its decision to fire a long-serving employee at its Prince Albert store, after he was involved in altercations with two customers — including an alleged shoplifter who he says pulled a knife on him.
"I'm still trying to put the pieces together," said Trevor Long, who had worked at the grocery store for 26 years.
He told CBC News that in mid-September, employees at the store caught a woman who was allegedly shoplifting. She then threatened to use a pair of scissors to harm staff and fled from the business, Long says.
One night later, on Sept. 14, the woman returned to the store, he said.
Because there was no loss-prevention staff working that night, Long, who was the manager on duty, responded to the employees' calls to deal with her.
"Once I received confirmation from another staff member … that this was the same individual, I called police right away," Long said.
"In the meantime I just began talking to the lady, kind of stalling her."
Long was told by a different employee that police officers were already there, collecting statements from employees who were working the previous night about that incident.
Long says when the woman heard police were present, she took off and ran into a back room in the store. He followed her into the room, where Long alleges she pulled out a knife and threatened him.
According to the Prince Albert Police Service, a 42-year-old woman is facing various charges in connection with the incidents on Sept. 13 and Sept. 14, including assault causing bodily harm and theft.
Past policy violations: Loblaw
The incident with the woman on Sept. 14 was not Long's first interaction with a potentially dangerous customer.
He was also the manager on duty when a naked man who Long believed to be high on drugs burst into the store and caused damage in March.
Long said he tried to restrain the man, later identified as Calvin John Jobb, until police arrived.
Jobb pleaded guilty to charges related to mischief and indecent exposure earlier this year. He was sentenced to four months in jail and given credit for time served behind bars.
Following the second incident, Long was fired from his position at Superstore on Sept. 17. He said he was told he was fired with cause.
When contacted, Loblaw, Superstore's parent company, said a strict policy on apprehensions is in place at their stores.
"While we appreciate the sentiment behind his efforts, the colleague in question had violated our policy in the past and had been formally warned of the consequences for additional violations," the statement from Loblaw said.
"While shoplifting has a negative impact on our bottom line, we firmly believe that the safety and security of our colleagues and customers must always come first."
May pursue legal action
Long disputes Loblaw's claim and says he was never formally reprimanded for his actions on the night Jobb was arrested in March.
He said he's still in disbelief about what happened that night in September, and its aftermath.
"Basically, 26 years with the company and [fired] for an incident like that — nobody asks to go to work and have to deal with, or be part of an incident like that."
Long has enlisted lawyer Ron Parchomchuk to try to find a possible solution to the situation.
Parchomchuk said he and his client dispute Superstore's position that Long was fired with cause.
"If we can't resolve matters, then I would expect that some sort of litigation would proceed in the future," Parchomchuk said.
Parchomchuk said the woman at the centre of the September incident has pleaded not guilty, and her matter will head to court — likely in the new year.
Long's firing was disappointing for at least one long-time Superstore customer. Dong Lam said he walked through the store every night and frequently interacted with Long on his visits.
"Now, because he's not here, I don't feel safe there anymore," Lam said.