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.
Janice 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 end’s 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.”
The Tampa Bay Times reporter told Amy Wetherbee, Sullivan’s neighbor, that he was receiving many requests from readers about how they could make contributions to “Jan,” as Wetherbee calls her.
Wetherbee said she “had been a good neighbor for many years and was all alone.”
“She was very depressed and had not been able to get an attorney to take her case,” Wetherbee said. ”I felt that she needed an advocate and she had nobody else to turn to. “