LOS ANGELES (CN) – A disabled Target employee committed suicide three days after his bosses made him perform a “walk of shame,” a humiliating ritual that is company policy, his mother claims in court.
Virginia Gentles sued Target Corp. and two managers of its Pasadena store on Jan. 22 in Superior Court, for the death of her son, Graham Gentles, who was a cashier.
The individual defendants are Anthony Mims, the Pasadena store team leader, and Charles Godinez, the store’s executive team leader for asset protection.
Graham Gentles has Asperger’s syndrome, his mother says. When he arrived for work, 10 minutes early as usual, on July 15, 2014, he was met by police and Target security workers, including Mims and Godinez.
At the direction of Mims and Godinez, police grabbed her son at the front entrance, “emptied his pockets, pulled his hat off his head, handcuffed him,” and then led him, with Mims and Godinez, past the registers and into the office, Gentles says.
She says her son was “shocked, confused and mortified” and “had no idea why he was being arrested.”
In the Target office, he was “forcibly detained by Target security personnel and the police,” questioned, then taken to the police department, his mom says. She says her son was never charged with a crime and was released that day.
She claims Mims and Godinez “were acting pursuant to Target policy in instigating Mr. Gentles’ arrest and subjecting him to the Walk of Shame.”
The complaint states: “The Walk of Shame is a Target policy to purposefully cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target Corporation. The policy consists of suspected employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and store customers.”
Gentles claims that Target has made other employees do the Walk of Shame “on numerous occasions.”
She says her son was a “loyal and hard-working employee” who never stole anything from Target.
Her son killed himself three days later. She says his arrest and Walk of Shame “proximately caused” her son to commit suicide.
She seeks punitive damages for wrongful death, false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is represented by Patrick McNicholas.
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