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The Washington Post had a story the other day about a Safeway employee who got fired…but as in all things, the story was more complicated than just that.

The Post wrote: “Michael Holland was working the deli counter at a Safeway in Damascus in January when a manager told him to take a short break. On his way, he picked up a glazed doughnut from the bakery department and a small carton of milk from the dairy case.

“Holland, who struggles with physical disabilities and some slowness in cognitive processing, returned to the deli without paying. He says he did not realize his mistake until a manager asked for a receipt. Holland apologized, he said, and explained he had been preoccupied and rushed … His failure to pay for his $1.78 snack brought Holland's nearly 18-year career at Safeway to a sudden halt. In the eight weeks that followed, Holland, the primary breadwinner for his wife and four children, was suspended, ordered to pay for the food, fined $50 and fired.

“Yesterday, after a meeting with Local 27 of the United Food and Commercial Workers and inquiries by the Washington Post, Safeway offered to reinstate the 37-year old worker. Safeway officials said they will make an exception to their ‘zero tolerance’ policy against employee theft because of Holland's disabilities and his long-standing service with the company.

“Safeway officials said that the store, like many other groceries, operates with a narrow profit margin -- 1 to 2 percent -- and takes a hard line on theft, no matter how small. That position, worker advocates say, can mean a big price for a small mistake and makes it hard to separate an honest lapse from criminal behavior.”

KC's View:
Two rules of thumb that this matter illustrates.

One is that common sense always has to reign. If the guy has disabilities and 18 years of service, management maybe ought to show a little sensitivity.

Two, you have to avoid stories like this one getting into the Washington Post. To do so, refer back to rule number one.