A Home Depot manager fired for violating company policy by chasing a suspected thief has sued to get his job back and $1.5 million in damages.
Russell Miller of Rutherford County worked as manager of Murfreesboro Home Depot until terminated for chasing the thief Aug. 20, 2007, the lawsuit stated.
He seeks a jury trial, $2.5 million if he doesn’t get his job back or $1.5 million if reinstated and $5 million for punishment damages. His wife, Jennifer, seeks $600,000 in damages.
Attorney Toby Gilley, who represents Miller with attorney Steve Waldron, said Miller filed the lawsuit “to right a wrong.”
Craig Fishel, public relations manager for Home Depot’s Southern Division, stated, “the company will respond to this matter in the appropriate forum.”
The lawsuit stated:
• Miller worked for Home Depot from March 13, 1995 to his termination Aug. 27, 2007. When terminated, he worked as manager for the Home Depot in Murfreesboro.
• When Miller arrived at work Aug. 20, 2007, the head cashier called to report a man struck a soft drink machine with a crowbar outside the building. From her tone of voice, Miller believed the cashier feared for her safety.
• Miller and assistant manager Robert Weiss saw two other employees detaining the suspect who was about 6 feet tall and weighed 180 pounds. When an employee asked for the cash taken from the machine, the suspect tossed the crowbar in a trash can and hurried away with the money. Two employees and Miller chased the suspect until they grabbed him.
• The manager counseled with the suspect, telling him he could stop using drugs and change his life.
He was not a customer of the store.
Murfreesboro Police took the suspect into custody. Police asked Miller for an affidavit for the arrest warrant. Miller obtained permission from the legal department to proceed with the prosecution.
• Later, Miller learned he was the subject of a company investigation. He was terminated Aug. 27.
Miller’s lawsuit stated he acted in concern for his employees, perceiving the suspect to be a threat to employees and customers. Under state law, Miller was justified to use reasonable force to protect employees and property.
His termination to protect others and arrest the suspect “jeopardizes clearly established public policies,” the lawsuit stated.
Gilley said Miller responded because the cashier feared the suspect with a crowbar.
“Rusty Miller instinctively has as we hope everyone would act when a human life is potentially in danger,” Gilley said. “In response, he was terminated.”
Miller offered to help the thief get help for a drug problem, his attorney said.
“How much more compassionate can you get?” Gilley said.
Attached to the lawsuit was the form Home Depot used to terminate Miller.
“Rusty pursued and detained a customer in the parking lot after the customer had broken into the vending machine outside the store,” the document stated. “Rusty’s actions are a violation of our company code of conduct — violation of asset protection policy.”
The document showed Home Depot disciplined Miller within the last year on the job but did not specify why.
Besides the money, Miller seeks back pay plus interest, the value of lost benefits, front pay, damages for humiliation, embarrassment, mental anguish, anxiety and the loss of life and reinstatement if possible.
His wife, Jennifer, seeks damages because of her husband’s loss.