Kroger Co. was recently hit with a wrongful death lawsuit after a former worker committed suicide in March.
The Kroger Co. is facing down a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of Evan Seyfried, a former worker, who took his own life earlier this year. The suit was filed in Hamilton County Court in Ohio and alleges that 40-year-old Seyfried committed suicide after enduring six months of “torturous conditions, including harassment and bullying from fellow workers at the Milford store.” The suit argues that “their behavior was in violation of Kroger’s stated policy of business ethics and was not acted upon by the company despite having been alerted to it by Seyfried and additional co-workers.”
As a result, Seyfried’s family is seeking $25,000 and a jury trial. In response to the lawsuit, a Kroger spokesperson issued the following statement:
“The loss of any associate is heartbreaking for our company. We share our sympathies with the Seyfried family and our associates following the loss of longtime associate Evan Seyfried. In line with our values, we are offering counseling services to our associates at the Milford, Ohio, location. Due to pending litigation, we are unable to comment further at this time but can share we are actively investigating the matter.”
What happened exactly, though? For starters, Seyfried worked as a dairy manager and first began experiencing hostility from one of his supervisors back in October when tensions and stress were already high due to the pandemic. One thing he was treated poorly for was his “adherence to the company’s mask policy.” According to the suit, Seyfried was “consistently mocked and harassed and that the supervisor, Shannon Frazee, pitted associates against each other based not only on their willingness to follow COVID-19 safety guidelines but also on their political ideologies.”
That wasn’t the worst of it, though. In fact, the suit alleges that “certain workers sabotaged Seyfried’s dairy department in an attempt to get him fired, and progressed to allegations that co-workers had followed him home, sent child pornography to his mobile phone, and subjected him to sexual harassment.” On top of that, he was allegedly harassed “in retaliation to attempts to report the behavior.”
Seyfried went to the company and union representatives to try and have the alleged abuse and harassment addressed, but nothing happened. He also requested a transfer, but that didn’t happen either, prompting him to resign in early March.
The lawsuit comes at a time when retailers like Kroger are grappling with “intense scrutiny over employee practices in the wake of COVID-19 controversies, political and social unrest, and associated demand for better workplaces in a tight labor market.” In response to that scrutiny, Kroger created a diversity, equity, and inclusion plan and stated it is “dedicated to creating a more equitable workplace where every associate is empowered and supported and feels valued and sense of belonging.”