(ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.) — A 73-year-old former Walmart greeter in St. Petersburg, Fla., says she’s been in a downward spiral and has had to sell her house after she was fired for grabbing an unruly customer on Black Friday last year.
“Walmart was my family. I didn’t have no family other than them,” Janice Sullivan told ABC Tampa affiliate WFTS reporter Kimberly Kuizon.
Sullivan had worked at Walmart for over 22 years. Last Black Friday, she was instructed to guard the entrance to prevent customers from exiting there. She said she was pushed by an angry customer leaving the store.
“I said, ‘Well I’m sorry, ma’am, you have to go around by the registers to go out,’” Sullivan told WFTS. “She said, ‘no, I’m going out’ and she just gave me a big push.”
Three days later, Sullivan said Walmart fired her because she laid her hands on the customer.
“I grabbed her to keep me from falling. That’s why I grabbed her,” she said.
Sullivan tried to collect unemployment but she said she was denied by the state because she was fired for “misconduct.” To make ends meet, she sold her home on June 29 and has maxed out her credit cards.
A spokeswoman for Walmart provided a statement to ABC News, saying, “Based on the information we have, the situation led to a bad experience for our customer and it could have been avoided. We had to make a tough decision – one that we don’t take lightly.”
The company has a policy against associates physically engaging with customers.
“I was trying to do my job,” Sullivan says.
Walmart says the company conducted a thorough investigation and concluded all available information did not match what has been depicted.
“We understand this is a difficult situation, and we’re glad Ms. Sullivan will be able to move forward,” the company said. ”We wish her the best.”
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Sam Turner, Deseret News
Jethro Mullen Ivana Kottasova and Patrick Gillespie, CNN
Jeff Peterson, Deseret News
Sara Weber, Deseret News