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Safeway Battles Image on Two Fronts

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway was putting out fires on two fronts this week — saying it is reviewing the suspension of an employee who stopped a male customer from kicking his pregnant girlfriend and, separately, issuing a statement from its general counsel apologizing for a joke he made at the chain's annual meeting last week.

Customers reportedly picketed Sunday at the store in Del Rey Oaks, in Northern California, where the suspended employee, Ryan Young, worked as a meat clerk. Young was suspended last month after he stepped into a confrontation between the customers. The Associated Press on Monday quoted Teena Massingill, a Safeway spokeswoman, explaining the clerk was not suspended without pay for coming to the woman's aid but for other, unspecified actions during the indicent, which was caught on a store surveillance system and which Safeway is reviewing.

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"We've heard from a lot of customers who don't feel Mr. Young should have been suspended," Massingill was quoted as saying. "We understand this reaction. We agree that Mr. Young is to be commended for choosing to intervene."

On a separate front, Robert Gordon, the chain's general counsel, issued a statement Friday in which he apologized for the joke that some people felt was insulting to Nancy Pelosi, former Speaker of the House, and Hilary Clinton, secretary of state. The joke implied that the two women had been traded for pigs. According to the statement: "I sincerely apologize if the opening comments offended anyone. As these comments have been interpreted, they are not a reflection of my personal beliefs or that of my employees. I understand how my comments have impacted others, and I hope they will accept my apology."

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