Former Employee Says Tom Thumb Forced Him to Work Through Broken Hand, Fired Him When it Wouldn't Heal

Categories: Biz, Legal Battles

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During six years with Tom Thumb, Shaun Garcia says he worked hard, rose up the ranks and earned a reputation as someone who could turn struggling, theft-plagued stores around. He started as a stocker at the Lewisville store then quickly earned a series of promotions, first to assistant night manager, then to full night manager, then as grocery director of stores of increasing size.

He finally landed at the Tom Thumb at Forest and Marsh lanes in Northwest Dallas, which is where he was on the morning of November 17, 2011, the day a couple of vice presidents from Tom Thumb's parent company, Randall's Food & Drug, were scheduled to inspect the store. This was also the day that Garcia's work life would turn to shit, according to a lawsuit he filed against Tom Thumb yesterday in federal court.

It was about 7:20 a.m. and Garcia was helping make last-minute preparations for the visit when, as he descended a flight of cluttered, greasy stairs in a back room, he slipped and fell. He put his right arm out instinctively to break his fall.

What actually broke was his hand. A doctor would later determine that it had fractured in several places and would need surgery to repair, but he didn't know all that at the time. All he knew was that his hand was swollen and that he was in agonizing pain. Garcia showed the hand to his boss, a man named Rock Pollard, who, according to the lawsuit, said that "the store would get 'walked' in just a few hours and it could be a while before he could send Garcia to get medical attention."

The hours ticked away. The corporate bigwigs came and went. Garcia was ordered to fill the spice rack. At 11:30 a.m., Pollard called him to the store office to fill out paperwork. Finally at noon, nearly five hours after the injury, he was sent across the street to PrimaCare.

Despite a physician's orders to the contrary, Garcia says he was required to finish out his shift and was forced to work his normal, 10-plus hour shifts over the week until he saw a hand specialist and underwent surgery. He took one week off under the Family Medical Leave Act and returned with a doctor's note limiting him to light duty. This Pollard ignored and scheduled him for his normal shifts and duties. The manager's response, according to the lawsuit: "If you can stand, you can work."

This allegedly went on for several months while Garcia underwent two additional surgeries, then a lengthy stint in physical therapy. His formerly amicable relationship with Pollard soured as his hand, due largely to the strenuous work he was doing, failed to heal properly. Garcia was fired in August.

Tom Thumb spokeswoman Connie Yates has not yet returned a call seeking comment. Based on the information contained in Garcia's suit, it seems the grocer fired him over suspicions that he stole a cell phone that had been charging in the store's cash office.

Garcia recounts the firing this way: He was called into Pollard's office twice in August and interrogated about the stolen phone. He explained he had been in the office to charge his own phone, common practice among the store's employees. During the second meeting, at which a loss prevention officer was present, he says he was accused of lying. At this, he refused to answer additional questions without an attorney present. He was immediately suspended, then, four days later, he was fired.

Garcia pins his termination on his medical issues and claims that the decision violated the FMLA. Tom Thumb doubtless will tell a different story, if they decide to share it. But it's fairly safe, from the facts established, to draw two conclusions: Working at a grocery store sucks. And so does breaking your hand.

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22 comments
baduserexperience
baduserexperience

I worked at Tom Thumb 20 years ago. I'm not familiar with the position of "Grocery Director." But if he was ordered to fill the spice racks I'm thinking it means "Glorified Stock Boy."

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

If Mr. Garcia was in charge of the store, why were the stairs cluttered and greasy? 


ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

It is not and has not been "TomThumb" for many years now.  It is Safeway now and I am not surprised.

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

FMLA? Should have been a Workmans Comp case from the beginning.

Why can't I see DO comments? I can see all the other Village Voice paper comments. Hmmmnnnnnnn..........

Diego
Diego

So, he's a big shot store manager or director and he's told to fill spice racks?

NewsDog
NewsDog

Tom Thumb's parent company is Safeway, not Randall's. This probably has more to do it than anything else. 

James080
James080 topcommenter

Something is fishy with this story. If he fell at work, it should be a workman's compensation claim.

ScottsMerkin
ScottsMerkin topcommenter

Tom thumb would have been better off firing him for no reason than giving him the reason of suspicion of a stolen phone.  

guillermo_botefuhr
guillermo_botefuhr

Haven't been able to see any comments across VV media until today. They certainly overpaid for Livefyre...

Finn
Finn

@Mervis_Earl This is not a workers' comp case, because Tom Thumb does not carry workers' comp insurance in Texas.  They are considered a "non-subscriber" to workers' compensation, so there is no bar to this individual pursuing a case in District Court.

CitzenKim
CitzenKim

@NewsDog My son got a W-2 for his work at Tom Thumb; it is from Randall's Food and Drug.

mutiny
mutiny

@James080 

Read the comment above by Finn. This is accurate. 

Mervis_Earl
Mervis_Earl

Not sure what was happening but it's working today.

MaxNoDifference
MaxNoDifference

@CitzenKim @NewsDog Randall's is owned by Safeway.  The Randall's name is used as the payroll entity for their Texas unit.  All of their policies and procedures as well as employee training materials are from Safeway, including all of their store brand items.

James080
James080 topcommenter

@mutiny @James080  

If that is the case, and the injury was in fact caused by his slipping on "greasy stairs," this becomes a winnable negligence, premises liability, and unsafe work place cause of action. Tom Thumb's risk management team should have intervened to make sure their injured employee was treated properly. 

James080
James080 topcommenter

@cantkeepthetruthdown@James080@mutiny 

It really doesn't matter.  Companies that choose not to provide workman's compensation insurance lose the following common law defenses in a negligence suit brought by an injured worker:

1. the injured worker’s own negligence caused the injury

2. the negligence of a fellow employees caused the injury

3. the injured worker knew of the danger and voluntarily accepted it.

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