May 23, 2012
A meat clerk at the Del Rey Oaks Safeway has been reinstated after more than a month of unpaid suspension for intervening when he witnessed a man beating his pregnant girlfriend.
After the incident, Safeway clerk Ryan Young's supervisors, police and witnesses praised him for what he did. Del Rey Oaks Mayor Jerry Edelen was also impressed.
“I talked to the police chief, and he said the guy was justified in what he [did],” Edelen says. “Here’s an individual with moral courage.”
The day after the incident, however, Young found himself suspended without pay and with no way to support his own pregnant wife while the company undertook an investigation—causing a furor among customers and local residents.
“It’s corporate stupidity to do this,” Edelen says. “There’s no logic to it. They’re looking at the trees rather than the forest. It’s just the dumbest thing.”
Safeway execs didn’t see the incident as cut-and-dry as outsiders. Company reps said there are two sides to the story, and they want the public to stave off opinions until they complete their own investigation. In litigious California, they say, a multi-billion-dollar corporation can’t be too careful.
Edelen disagrees with the company’s actions, and despite the tax revenue Del Rey Oaks makes from Safeway, he’s not afraid to take them to task.
“Usually there are two sides to every story, but in this case it makes no sense, other than laziness and not caring for justice,” Edelen says. “At least pay the guy and send out a press release saying he’s being paid on suspension pending the outcome of an investigation.”
Angry customers took to writing letters, calling in complaints and voicing outrage on Safeway’s Facebook wall, and recently they’ve come out to protest the store in person.
Del Rey Oaks City Manager Daniel Dawson recently pointed out a possible lull in revenue at the Safeway. Edelen says that's anecdotal evidence of the negative impact of Young's suspension.
Officials at the UFCW Local 5 union worked to speed up the investigation process that they say could have taken months.