A worker who survived a mass shooting by a supervisor at a retail store in Virginia that took the lives of six fellow employees has filed a lawsuit against her employer that requests $50 million in compensatory damages and claims she submitted a formal complaint about the gunman to the company two months before the incident, according to a copy of the lawsuit on WAVY.com.
The lawsuit filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court described how, on the evening of November 22, 2022, the shooter – a “team lead” at the company who managed the overnight stocking crew – walked into the break room of a store in Chesapeake, Virginia, “and opened fire on his coworkers with a semi-automatic weapon, killing and injuring multiple people.”
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff – who was employed as an overnight stocker – “submitted a formal complaint” to the company in September 2022 about inappropriate behavior by the gunman, who police found dead upon arrival at the store. In addition, many employees besides the plaintiff observed “bizarre and threatening behavior” by the gunman leading up to the shooting.
The lawsuit claims the plaintiff “witnessed several of her coworkers being brutally murdered on either side of her” and that she “has experienced, and will in the future experience, post-traumatic distress disorder, including physical manifestation of post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional distress” that include sleeplessness, flashbacks, severe anxiety, and nightmares.
The lawsuit also claims the gunman – who had been employed by the company since 2010 – “had been disciplined on several occasions during his employment,” “had been demoted by management for his improper and disturbing interactions with others, but then reinstated as team lead,” and “demonstrated a pattern of disturbing behaviors leading up to the shooting.”
The employer is being sued for “Negligent Hiring and Retention” for allegedly failing to investigate the background history of the gunman and continuing to retain him despite “known propensities for violence, threats, and strange behavior.” The employer is also being sued for “Respondeat Superior Liability” which holds employers responsible for acts of employees.
WAVY.com reported that the law firm that filed the lawsuit for the plaintiff one week after the incident issued a statement that read in part: “As workplace shootings and violence become horrifyingly common, employers have a responsibility to understand the warning signs and take threats seriously in order to protect their employees and customers.”
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): “Workplace violence is any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site. It ranges from threats and verbal abuse to physical assaults and even homicide. It can affect and involve employees, clients, customers, and visitors.”
Workplace violence is all too common. In July 2022, a report on “Indicators of Workplace Violence” was released and provided findings on fatal and nonfatal crimes that occurred in the workplace or over work-related issues. Over a 27-year period from 1992 to 2019, the study found that nearly 18,000 persons were killed at work, on duty, or in violence that was work-related.
ClearStar is a leading Human Resources technology firm that specializes in background checks, drug testing, and occupational health screening. ClearStar provides background checks that empower employers to make informed hiring decisions that may help reduce the chances of workplace violence by avoiding “bad hires” too unfit for the job. To learn more, contact ClearStar.
NOTE: ClearStar reminds readers that allegations made in lawsuits are not proof a business or individual violated any law, rule, or regulation since they are in the pleading stage with no factual adjudications yet.
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