Bradenton,FL. Cashier Sues Walmart for Malicious Prosecution in "Price
On October 14, 2014, Emily Rennhack, a Walmart cashier in Bradenton, Florida, was arrested at her register inside the retailer’s store by a county deputy sheriff, removed from the building in handcuffs, and transported to the Manatee county corrections facility.
Rennhack, who had worked for Walmart for more than 6 years, was charged by her employer with Grand Theft in
the Third Degree and embezzlement.
In an affidavit filed with the Manatee County sheriff, Walmart’s asset protection manager stated that Rennhack had made “a series of unusual price overrides…far beyond what would be allowed by our ad match or buy one get one competitive price matching policies.” Walmart claimed that Rennhack’s price reductions at her cash register had “resulted in a financial loss to Walmart” of $1,784.86. Rennhack spent the night in the county jail, and was released the following day after posting $1,500 bond.
Rennhack argued that her “price overrides” had all been conducted in accordance with Walmart’s price matching policy as she understood it, and that her supervisors had been aware of, and had authorized, all transactions involving a manager or Customer Service Manager.
In the criminal case against her, the local State Attorney offered Rennhack a “pretrial
intervention” which would result in all criminal charges being dropped—if she admitted guilt to theft and embezzlement charges, paid restitution to Walmart of $1,784.86, and agreed to months of supervision by the county Department of Probation. Rennhack refused to plead
guilty for something she had not done.
For the next year and a half, Rennhack lived under the shadow of criminal prosecution for a felony charge, which carried a potential 5-year prison sentence. She endured months of depositions, discovery. and repeated continuances of court hearings. During this time, the State Attorney’s office searched for testimony or other evidence to establish any criminal conduct by Rennhack, who was unable to find work because of the damage to her reputation. She could not pay her rent and was forced to move back home with her parents.
The State Attorney ultimately determined that insufficient evidence existed to show that Rennhack had committed any crime, and on July 11, 2016 entered a "nolle prosequi" in the criminal case--a notice that the criminal charges were being dropped.
On March 29, 2017, Rennhack’s lawyers, W. Nelon Kirkland and Thomas Whitaker, Jr. of Bradenton, filed a civil complaint against Walmart and 5 of its employees, charging Walmart and its loss prevention and supervisory staff with 12 counts, including False Report of a Crime, Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Malicious Prosecution, False Imprisonment, Defamation, Battery, and Negligence Against Walmart Training and Supervision of Employees. “Walmart failed to properly train, supervise, and protect the plaintiffs from customers who used and abused Walmart’s price matching policies,” the complaint charges. Rennhack “always followed her various supervisors’ instructions regarding Walmart’s price matching policy and the over-arching company policy to ‘take care of the customer.’ “
The complaint further states that Rennhack was wrongfully terminated, and “has suffered shame, been brought into public scandal, suffered loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, and endured great humiliation by being publicly arrested, and damage to her reputation.”
“Walmart’s conduct was extreme and outrageous and caused
plaintiff to suffer severe mental anguish and suffering including loss of sleep severe anxiety and depression,” the lawsuit says. Walmart “should have known that failure to exercise due care when wrongfully terminating plaintiff in her place of work, placing her in handcuffs, parading her through the store, and prosecuting her for an alleged felony would cause plaintiff severe emotional distress.” The complaint says that Walmart supervisors “had instructed her in the very practice she was being accused of using to commit theft in her place of work.”
What you can do: There is no clear count of how many Walmart cashiers have been fired over the company’s convoluted ‘price matching’ policy (now no longer in effect). In April of 2016, a 54-year old Walmart cashier in West Plains, Missouri was fired for price matching a gallon of sweet tea at $2.88 for $1.98. The community rallied in support of the cashier, who was recruited by another supermarket.
Emily Rennhack will pursue her civil case against Walmart in court this April.