Can you discipline a worker for heroism?

Nobody messes with Joe Bolton and gets away with it," the swing shift guard bragged to coworkers after successfully overpowering a burglar during a robbery attempt and holding him at bay until the police arrived. Bolton was strutting like a peacock.

05/01/1999


Nobody messes with Joe Bolton and gets away with it," the swing shift guard bragged to coworkers after successfully overpowering a burglar during a robbery attempt and holding him at bay until the police arrived.

Bolton was strutting like a peacock. His name and picture were in the local paper. Employees and neighbors clapped him on the back and told him what a hero he was. Despite his wife Arlene having called him a dummy, Bolton felt he was entitled to receive a medal of some kind.

But Arlene wasn't the only one who didn't appreciate his heroism. The company's security manager, Harold Ritchie, was livid.

"That was an idiot act you pulled," the executive said. "You could have had your head blown off."

"That's the thanks I get for saving the company a lot of money," Bolton grumbled. "That crook would've made off with a bundle if I hadn't got him."

"That's why our insurance is so high. The monetary consideration is secondary. You know that company policy prohibits resistance during robbery attempts. As a guard, you should know this better than most. I'm putting you through for a month's suspension. If you pull a damn fool stunt like this again, it will cost you your job."

"I'm not sitting still for this," Bolton threatened.

Question: Is the guard's discipline justified? Can management make it stick?

Marshall's verdict: "The suspension stands," Plant Engineer Hal Marshall ruled. "Response to reckless action like Bolton's has to be 'thanks, but no thanks.' Our primary responsibility must be for the safety and well-being of people over material assets. There's no predicting what a gunman's response to resistance might be. He could kill the would be hero or worse, go on a rampage. It's happened before. Bolton, if anyone, should be aware of the risk involved. It's a police, not an employee, job to apprehend and overcome criminals."





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