NEW YORK (NBC News) – An ex Walmart employee says the company fired him because he was collecting cans in the store’s parking lot and keeping the refund money.
For Thomas Smith, corralling carts in the parking lot of Walmart was more than a job. It was a second chance.
Smith got out of prison in May after serving more than 13 years for robbing a bank in Latham to fuel his drug addiction.
Thomas Smith said “I don’t want to live the lifestyle that I lived before. I’m gonna go home and get a job and try to do better.”
Two Fridays ago, he agreed to work an unscheduled shift at the Walmart in east Greenbush because the store was shorthanded. But by the end of the day, he had lost his job.
Smith says he was fired for collecting empty bottles and cans in the parking lot and turning them in for a total of $5.10.
“She said well that’s stealing. I said I did not know I was stealing or anything,” Smith said.
Smith says he took a one-hour bus ride back to Walmart on Sunday to give his manager the money from the cans. But that didn’t change their mind. Smith’s story has spread on social media, sparking outrage across the country, and more than $500 in donations has been raised on gofundme.com.
But, a spokesperson for Walmart says Smith was fired for gross misconduct and theft inside the store and that the cans had nothing to do with it.
This was a surprising response for Alice Green, with the center of law and justice, who has been helping Smith and has been in contact with Walmart employees in east Greenbush.
Alice Green said “they certainly didn’t indicate that when I talked to them, and our attorney talked to them, and they said it was Walmart’s property, the cans and the bottles, and that amounted to theft.”
The Walmart spokesperson says Smith admitted to stealing inside the store in a written statement.
Smith says he wrote a statement admitting to taking the cans.
Walmart didn’t give him a copy and the company says it would go against their policy to share it with the media.