Long-time clerk sues Circle K after being terminated for pushing shoplifter stealing cigarettes

Nearly two decades of service ended with one elderly Coloradan getting shown the door for actions during a robbery, leading her to sue Circle K “to prove that it was wrong for them to fire me for what happened.”

(Video: KDVR)

On Oct. 4, 2020, 75-year-old Mary Ann Moreno was working behind the counter at the Westminster, Colorado Circle K where she had been employed for 18 years. Her track record for the company with a tremendous turnover rate meant nothing when she allegedly violated the “Don’t Chase or Contact Policy.”

During her shift more than two and a half years ago, surveillance footage showed Moreno interacting with a man later identified as Tyler Wimmer who had entered the store carrying a knife in one hand and a sealed package containing a knife in the other. When the clerk declined to give him cigarettes for free, Wimmer could be seen leaving before he turned back and went behind the counter to help himself.

“I freaked out, you know? And I just went like that,” she said describing a pushing action to KDVR as she recounted the experience. “Well, supposedly, I guess I grabbed his arm. I don’t remember that, but I push him, and that’s when he ran out.”

While Wimmer made off with the cigarettes only to be chased down by police who had arrived after witness Larry Wagner had contacted them during the incident, Moreno would learn shortly thereafter that the interaction had cost her her job.

“I really did not think I would get fired for something like that,” she explained. “If I’d chased him out the door or, you know, argued with him.”

Though a formal termination letter was not issued, Moreno was told days later that she had been fired for violating the company’s “Don’t Chase or Contact Policy,” a decision that led her to file suit against Circle K Stores, Inc.

Her attorney Iris Halpern suggested to KDVR, “Companies have not sufficiently thought through the nuance in these situations, and any normal person is going to respond by pushing an attacker away from them.”

Wagner echoed the sentiment when he expressed, “I think they need to reevaluate their policy. If you care about your employees.”

Moreno is far from alone when it comes to retailers maintaining a no tolerance position on employees interacting with thieves. As previously reported, two Georgia Lululemon employees were let go with no severance after filming shoplifters and demanding they leave the store before following them out.

CEO Calvin McDonald defended the move on CNBC when he said in part, “…we put the safety of our team, of our guests, front and center. It’s only merchandise.”

“At the end, they’re trained to step back, let the theft occur, know that there’s technology, there’s cameras and we’re working with law enforcement,” he added.

As for Moreno’s case, she said, “I was really upset that they fired me because, after 18 years of service with this company, they did that to me. When they needed help, if somebody called in (sick), I was the first person they called. I did things that they didn’t even ask me to do. I washed windows, I shoveled snow, I cleaned their pumps, mopped floors, cleaned bathrooms, took merchandise off the shelving, dusted, cleaned cans, checked for expiration — I did it all.”

“I want to prove that it was wrong for them to fire me for what happened,” she concluded.

Meanwhile, after Wimmer was arrested, he pled guilty to the robbery and other unrelated crimes that landed him three years in a correctional institution.


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Kevin Haggerty


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