Former employee sues Lowe's after stealing accusation

CHARLESTON -- A former employee is suing Lowe's Home Center after he was accused of being involved in missing and uncharged sale items. Charles D. Shawkey II worked for Lowe's from Aug. 6, 1987, until Feb. 18, 2009, as a commercial sales specialist, where his work record was exemplary and he was the leading salesman and producer for Lowe's in the region, according to a complaint filed Oct. 13 in Kanawha Circuit Court. Shawkey claims on Feb. 18 supervisory and management personnel requested him to go to the manager's office and escorted him there, where he was interrogated for about 90 minutes. During the interrogation, Shawkey never was advised of the reason for the questioning nor was he ever advised that he was free to leave or seek counsel, according to the suit. Shawkey claims it became apparent to him that he was being accused of some involvement with missing or uncharged sale items and was led to believe the interrogation involved three specific mistakes in ringing up stock materials provided to Lowe's customers. According to the suit, after nearly an hour after the interrogation began, Shawkey was advised that if he wished to keep his job, he needed to write a statement admitting that he was involved in the three incidents that deprived Lowe's of sales receipts and that the interrogators told him what to write in the statement. After the statement was written and signed, the interrogation personnel then told Shawkey to write a check in the amount of $408.49 to cover the alleged cost of materials in question, and that if he wrote the check, he would remain in his current position, Shawkey claims. According to the suit, after Shawkey provided the coerced statement and check, the interrogation was concluded and the store manager terminated him. Shawkey claims he immediately stopped payment on the check, which he was coerced into writing. Lowe's then instituted collection action on the stop payment check, threatening to make an adverse report on Shawkey's credit rating. Shawkey filed for unemployment compensation benefits, which were awarded to him after Lowe's failed to attend the initial unemployment benefits hearing. Shawkey claims Lowe's then protested the award of unemployment benefits and alleged he was discharged for gross misconduct and he was a thief. After two days of hearings, extensive testimony, review of video surveillance and documentary evidence, the administrative law judge concluded that the evidence did not prove Shawkey was guilty of gross misconduct, but that he had violated Lowe's return merchandise policy. Shawkey appealed the decision to the Board of Review, who concluded that he was neither guilty of theft nor violation of Lowe's policy. Shawkey is suing for sums to fully and fairly compensate him for the harm, injuries and damages sustained; and wages, benefits and other employment compensation lost as a result of the wrongful discharge for negligence, defamation of character, false light invasion of privacy, internal infliction of emotional distress, tortuous interference with business relations and unlawful detention. Paul K. Reese of Warner Law Offices is representing Shawkey. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey. Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-1914

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