CHESAPEAKE, Va. (BRANOVID) – The a woman who filed a $50 million lawsuit this week against Walmart said the company should have known of the attacker’s “longstanding pattern of disturbing and threatening behavior” and should have required him to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Another employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also shared her concerns this week about the gunman’s behavior. The gunman had worked at the Walmart location for 12 years.
Christian Connell is an employment lawyer based in Norfolk and is not connected to the case. He said he believes the company should have required a mental health evaluation.
“If several people are communicating with you, or if one person tells you that that individual has threatened other workers – I don’t think you should weigh in, I don’t think it’s the employer’s responsibility to determine how much truth there is to that, I think they probably would they could have required that employee to undergo a mental health evaluation,” Connell said in the interview.
A professional counselor based in Chesapeake said he has seen several cases where an employer has required a mental health evaluation.
“(In one of them) an employee filed a complaint against another employee, and after looking into it, they decided it was anger management,” said David Martin, a critical incident stress management consultant.
If the employee refuses to undergo evaluation and counseling, termination or discharge is the next likely step. In that situation, Connell says the ultimatum could actually backfire.
“The double-edged sword is this: For any employer in this situation, firing can cause behavior that you don’t want to see,” Connell explained. “So if you fire the worker, he may come back and be angry about the firing.”
But experts disagree about how much information an employer can get from an employee’s mental health treatment.
“I think they can ask you to do a mental health evaluation and they’ll find out if the evaluator thinks you’re fit to work there,” Connell said.
However, Martin says employers are very limited in what they can learn from treatment.
“There is no requirement to report back to the manager, just simply to report that they followed him (by attending the counseling sessions).”
If, during treatment, the employee talks about specific threats, the employer and law enforcement must be notified.
“If a person is in harm or potential harm to others or themselves, you are required to report it,” Martin said.
Walmart had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, saying it would respond in court.