Popeye's Manager Fired For Refusing to Pay Back Robbed Money [Update]

In Depth

There are so many screwed-up details to this story that they wouldn’t all fit into one headline; I couldn’t even get “also, she’s pregnant” in there.

Alright, let’s deep-dive into this septic pit of awful humanity. Via Travis Gettys at Raw Story, on March 31, a Popeye’s in Channelview, Texas, was robbed at gunpoint. The masked gunman told everyone to get on the ground, then grabbed the manager on duty, Marissa Holcomb, and demanded she open the safe. When she wasn’t able to get the safe open,* Holcomb, who was 5 months pregnant at the time, was able to get the guy to leave by giving him $400 from the cash registers.

This would be a terrible if not particularly interesting story if it ended there. Unfortunately for Marissa Holcomb and anyone with a soul, it does not: immediately after the armed robbery, Holcomb’s superiors told her she’d either have to repay the money stolen from her at gunpoint or lose her job. When Holcomb refused (because what the fuck is that shit), she was fired almost immediately — in all, it took less than 36 hours after the Popeye’s was robbed for the victim of a traumatic experience to lose her job through no fault of her own.

Z&H Foods, Inc., the franchise owner of the Channelview Popeye’s, refused to comment on camera, but they did tell KHOU-TV that Holcomb was actually fired for “leaving too much money in the safe register,” something she’d supposedly “done before.”** According to Holcomb, however, It had been a particularly busy day on March 31, and the $400 in the register had accrued just in the last hour. Unless Holcomb’s entire job as manager was to be a money conduit from register to safe, it’s hard to see how she’s at fault for that. Regardless, she was still ultimately fired for harshing Z&H Foods’ greed boner.

Yes, since Texas is an at-will state,*** they can fire you for blinking wrong if they feel like it, so Holcomb’s firing isn’t actually illegal. That doesn’t make it ethical. 10-to-1 says they try to stop her from collecting unemployment, too—assuming Texas hasn’t entirely done away with the concept of employment insurance because of [collection of words that would make someone a winner at Bootstraps Bingo].

Update: Following public pressure, Z&H Foods is now fully backpedaling and trying to offer Holcomb her job back along with $2,000 in back pay. For some completely inexplicable reason, she seems conflicted about taking it:

“I do need a way to support my kids,” she says. “I don’t want to go back to a business where I’m treated the same and I just get pushed back out if something else happened.”

This appears to have been the end result of the Popeye’s head office in Georgia getting involved. CEO Cheryl Bachelder was quoted as saying, “We have spoken to the local franchise owner of the restaurant, and he has taken immediate action to reach out to the employee to apologize and rectify the situation.” Translation: “Are you fucking kidding me, did you not realize what a PR nightmare this would be when you fired this woman?! Fix this before we fix it for you.”

* Most retail and food service safes are on a timed delay (usually 10-15 minutes) for the specific reason of preventing armed robbers from being able to access them immediately. This, of course, makes sense, because it’s not like a deranged armed lunatic, when prevented from acquiring the thing they’re willing to break the law and threaten the lives of other human beings to obtain, might lash out at the nearest easy target or anything. God forbid any company value the lives of its employees more than its daily take.

** When a company or manager fires someone for dubious reasons and then gets held to task for it, they will always claim the person was actually fired for something different “which they’ve done before.” Often, this will be accompanied by a suspicious lack of write-ups, or a stack of write-ups curiously written in the same handwriting, using the same pen, and lacking any employee signature to indicate they’d officially been issued. Guess how I know this.

*** Texas is one of 14 states with no implied contract exception.

Image via Paul McKinnon/Shutterstock. This post originally labeled the reasoning behind Holcomb’s firing as “leaving too much money in the safe,” though the TV report itself makes it clear that she had left too much in the register. We regret the error.

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