2022Workplace SafetyWorkplace Violence

Written By Digital Content Editor Thomas Ahearn

An employee who survived a mass shooting by a supervisor at a retail store in Virginia that took the lives of six employees has filed a $50 million lawsuit against the company that claims she submitted a complaint about the gunman two months before the shooting, according to a copy of the complaint available on WAVY.com.

The lawsuit filed in Chesapeake Circuit Court alleges that the plaintiff had been concerned for months that a workplace violence incident could be caused by the gunman – who police say died from a self-inflicted wound after the shooting incident on November 22, 2022 – and requested $50 million in compensatory damages.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff “submitted a formal complaint” to the company in September 2022 about inappropriate behavior by the gunman. In addition, the lawsuit claims many employees and managers along with the plaintiff observed “bizarre and threatening behavior” by the gunman leading up to the shooting.

The lawsuit describes how the gunman – an employee of the defendant and a “team lead” – walked into a break room “and opened fire on his coworkers with a semi-automatic weapon, killing and injuring multiple people.” The plaintiff “witnessed several of her coworkers being brutally murdered on either side of her.”

As a result of the shooting, the lawsuit stated the plaintiff “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, loss of appetite, and nightmares.

The lawsuit is suing the defendant – the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees – for “Negligent Hiring and Retention” for failing to investigate the background history of the gunman and continuing to retain and employ the gunman who “had known propensities for violence, threats, and strange behavior.”

The employer is also being sued on a second count of “Respondeat Superior Liability” – a doctrine that can hold employers responsible for the acts of their employees – since the gunman was an employee of the defendant and was “acting in the scope of his employment with defendant” at all times relevant to this case.

The law firm that filed the lawsuit one week after the shooting 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.” 

Attorney Lester Rosen, founder of Employment Screening Resources (ESR), a service offering of ClearStar, wrote “employers have a duty of due diligence in hiring, and if their hiring practices cause harm to co-workers or members of the public, an employer can be sued for negligent hiring” in his book “The Safe Hiring Manual.”

“If an employer hires someone who they knew – or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known – was dangerous, dishonest, unfit, or unqualified for the position, and it was reasonably foreseeable that some sort of injury could happen to someone as a result, then the employer can be sued for negligent hiring,” Rosen wrote.

In July 2022, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) released a report on “Indicators of Workplace Violence” which provided findings on fatal and nonfatal crimes that occurred in the workplace or over work-related issues.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs (OJP), 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, using data from BLS’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).

Employment Screening Resources (ESR) is a service offering of ClearStar, a leading Human Resources technology firm that specializes in background checks and drug testing. ClearStar provides background checks for employers that may help to reduce the chances of workplace violence. To learn more, contact ClearStar.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a service offering of 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.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – a service offering of ClearStar – does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

© 2022 Employment Screening Resources (ESR) – A Service Offering of ClearStar – Making copies of or using any part of the ESR News Blog or ESR website for any purpose other than your own personal use is prohibited unless written authorization is first obtained from ESR.

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