A Taco Bell manager made the news recently for allegedly telling his employees to lock a sleeping homeless man in the restaurant’s dumpster. According to the article, a customer, Jacob Cook, at the Redding, California Taco Bell, overheard employees tell their manager about a homeless man sleeping in the dumpster. The customer claims he heard the manager tell the employees to lock the dumpster lid and shut the gate surrounding the dumpster. When Cook confronted the manager, the manager told Cook he could not tell him how to do his job and that Cook needed to leave the premises. Cook left and, after seeing the employees shut the close the dumpster and the gate, called the police. While he waited for the police Cook claims he heard the homeless man banging on the dumpster lid. When the police arrived they found the man in the dumpster and let him out.
The Taco Bell manager claims he never told his employees to lock anyone in the dumpster. The only thing he says he told his employees was to leave the man alone and shut the gate. Furthermore, he claims any adult could get out of the dumpster when it is locked; although he claims the dumpster cannot actually be locked. Regardless of whether the dumpster locks, closing the dumpster and shutting the gate is required by law. The manager was concerned about not getting fined and about the safety of his employees and customers because he had been assaulted and had a gun pulled on him in the past. While police have yet to release a report on the incident, Taco Bell has denied the report.
Employee Rights & Responsibility
As the Taco Bell manager illustrated, employees should expect their employer to provide a safe and lawful working environment. Additionally, employees are also expected to follow the instructions of their employer, as they are likely intended to maintain safe conditions. But, employers and government agencies expect employees to consider their actions before complying with instructions. As in the case of the Taco Bell employees, their manager told them to close the gate and the lid to the dumpster. This instruction was intended to comply with a city ordinance and, according to their manager, for the safety of the employees. Confronting the sleeping person could potentially be dangerous. If what the manager says about being able to get out of the dumpster is true, then no laws were broken and the instructions protected the employees.
On the other hand, there are situations in which employer instructions may violate laws and endanger employees or others. For instance, an employer may instruct an employee to ignore safety requirements in order to make a process faster. Or an employee may ignore safety instructions or company policies because they seem unnecessary. Employers should consider a workplace investigation to determine if any misconduct or violations have occurred, and to see if the problems can be corrected.
Employee policies and safety are vital to a successful business, but problems can arise. An experienced Washington employment law attorney can help.