A PetSmart employee since July 2008, Favetta was fired from his job at the Secaucus store last month for “theft of service.” The alleged “theft” occurred during an overnight shift Favetta worked as a favor to his manager.
Favetta brought his dog, Gizmo, to work with him, and the dog stayed in the store’s doggie day care facility — which at the time was not manned by any other employee — while Favetta prepared the store for a special showing to potential business partners.
“I have always been the type of employee to go the extra mile and make sure that not only the store was taken care of but that the employees were taken care of,” said Favetta, 31, of Towaco.
For his deed, at a business that encourages customers to bring pets to the store, he was canned. Here’s how it happened:
PetSmart seemed like a perfect fit to Favetta after his nearly seven-year stint as a dog handler for various military units in Afghanistan and Bahrain. He became operations manager — basically an assistant manager — at the Wayne store.
Favetta said he was charged with helping clean up a messy store where business was suffering.
In April 2009, the district manager moved Favetta to the Secaucus store — a high-traffic, high-profile store that was in disarray.
“He explained that the store was not in great shape and there were a lot of issues down there,” Favetta said. “He explained I was at that time the number one operations manager in the district and was well on my way to having my own store one day.”
Favetta said that as he took steps to make improvements at the Secaucus store, he and the store manager butted heads. More than a few times. Favetta requested a transfer but was denied. He was needed in that store, he was told, so he stayed.
The store started turning around, and Favetta said he tried to make the best of his position, even though he had ongoing conflicts with his manager. Favetta would do favors for the manager, such as coming in at 4 a.m. to work a two-hour shift, even on days off, because the manager didn’t like to work so early, Favetta said.
At 5 p.m. on Dec. 15, Favetta was asked to work a special overnight shift that night to prepare the store for a viewing by representatives for Martha Stewart’s company, which was considering adding its product lines to PetSmart. Favetta said yes.
“I brought my dog with me because I knew if I didn’t, he would have been home alone all day and all night until I returned home at 6 a.m. the next day,” Favetta said.
He did the shift, and Gizmo, a 3-year-old Belgian Malinois, spent the night in the empty store’s doggie day care facility. Favetta said he’d check in on Gizmo every 15 minutes or so, and then go back to work.
Two weeks later, Favetta was asked to meet with his store and district managers, who requested a written account of his overnight shift. He complied. They reviewed it and fired him for “theft of service.”
“I was shocked,” Favetta said. “It makes me sick that because I brought my dog to work with me when the store was closed to do the company a favor, I was called a thief and terminated.”
That’s when he contacted Bamboozled.
GETTING OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE
Favetta thought his firing was an excuse to get rid of him because he didn’t get along with his manager. He raised some interesting questions: If they fired him because of “theft of service,” why did they wait two weeks to question him? Why was Favetta allowed to open and close the store, and handle money every day, if PetSmart thought he was a thief?
We talked to PetSmart about its policies for employees who bring pets to work.
“In our eyes, our services business is huge, with our grooming and training and care. Those are viewed as sale items the same way items on the shelf are,” spokeswoman Jessica White said. “To use the facilities and not pay for it — it falls under the same lines.”
Hold the dog biscuits. Absolutely, pet care services are an important part of PetSmart’s business, and, yes, employees should pay for any services they receive along those lines. But Favetta brought his dog in when no other employee was in the store. Gizmo didn’t get a manicure. No other employee was being paid, nor was their time being used, to care for Gizmo.
“The use of the facilities is still considered a service,” White said.
For argument’s sake, let’s say Favetta was wrong. Did his actions really warrant termination? An employee with a spotless record booted for that? Maybe he should have been given a warning. Or been told to pay for the overnight “service.” But don’t take away his job for what amounts to a questionable infraction.
The punishment simply doesn’t fit the crime — if there was a crime, at all. (PetSmart did not call the police or file charges against Favetta for the “theft.”)
The next day, Favetta got a phone call from Bob Ruth, PetSmart’s human resources director, and they talked for two hours, Favetta said. Favetta told his story and the director asked lots of questions.
Two days later, Ruth called back, this time with the offer of Favetta’s job, along with a transfer to another store.
“I’m happy,” Favetta said. “I definitely think it was the right decision, and once they saw everything that happened, I think they knew it was the right decision.”
Favetta accepted his job back, but while he was unemployed, he had some feelers out for new positions. He was offered a job as a dog handler working for a company that uses animals to search for hazards, and he decided to take it rather than return to PetSmart.
“I had to think about everything that happened, why it happened and what the next step for a career would be for me,” he said, expressing concerns that because he’d be under the same district manager — whose decision on Favetta’s firing was overturned by corporate — it would hurt his possibility for future promotion.
Favetta wanted to make sure his employment record at PetSmart would reflect that he left the company on good terms, not because of a firing, so we rang the company one more time.
“It will read as a resignation,” spokeswoman Jennifer Simmons said.