NY Walmart Fires Employee After He Recycled Cans From Parking Lot

November 20, 2015 Updated: November 20, 2015

An upstate New York Walmart is under fire after firing an employee because he recycled $5.10 worth of cans.

Thomas Smith’s job at the Walmart in East Greenbush was to gather shopping carts from the vast parking lot and collect them in central locations.

He would often pick up garbage that customers left behind, too, so he decided to separate some recyclables from the rest to try to make a little extra money.

Smith was fired on Nov. 6 for redeeming $5.10 worth of empty cans and bottles inside the store.

Alleged Theft

The 52-year-old told the Times Union that he was called into the security office and interrogated by a manager and two security staff members.

“I didn’t know you couldn’t take empties left behind. They were garbage,” Smith said. “I didn’t even get a chance to explain myself. They told me to turn in my badge.”


Outpouring of rage and support for Walmart employee fired after redeeming cans from store parking lot.

Posted by Albany Times Union on Thursday, November 19, 2015

A manager said surveillance cameras caught Smith redeeming the cans and bottles, tantamount to theft of Walmart property.

“Mr. Smith was terminated due to theft inside of the store and has signed a statement admitting to the crime,” Aaron Mullins, a Walmart spokesman, said in a statement obtained by CBS.

“I did the right thing and stayed out of trouble. I worked hard and did a good job. I ended up getting a raw deal,” said Smith, who is on parole after being released from prison in May. Smith was sentenced to 15 years in jail in 2002 for armed robbery of a bank.

What’s Next

Smith, who was making $9-an-hour, says he’s considering a lawsuit and has support from the Center for Law and Justice, which found out that a white woman was caught on camera stealing $20 from a cash register but was not fired because she has five kids.

“It raised issues of race and gender,” said Alice Green of the center.

Support for Smith after his story came out has been overwhelming, with numerous people on Facebook indicating they’re planning on sending him money while others are sending angry letters to Walmart.

One man started a GoFundMe campaign that has already raised almost $2,000 in under 24 hours.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber