The mother of a former cashier at the Target store in Pasadena sued the retail chain for wrongful death on Thursday, alleging her son committed suicide three days after being humiliated by management by being handcuffed and forced to take part in a so-called “walk of shame” in front of co-workers and customers.
Virginia Gentles, mother of the late Graham Gentles, filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. She also alleges false imprisonment, negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A Target representative did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.
According to the complaint, Graham Gentles arrived for work last July 15 and was immediately met by police and store security. At the direction of two members of the store management, he was handcuffed and led before other store employees to an office, the suit states.
“Mr. Gentles was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of co-workers and customers,” the suit states. “Mr. Gentles had no idea why he was being arrested.”
He was questioned in the office, then later taken to the police station, the suit states. However, he was later released and never charged with any crime, according to the complaint.
The suit alleges the actions by the two Target management representatives were part of a company practice that other employees had also experienced.
“The walk of shame is a Target policy to purposely cause shame, embarrassment and emotional distress to any Target employee who is suspected of stealing from Target,” the suit states. “The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.”
However, the suit alleges that Graham Gentles’ involvement in a “verbal altercation” with another Target worker at a bar outside of work hours several months before the handcuffing incident may have prompted management to subject him to the “walk of shame,” the suit states.
He suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, but was a loyal employee who always arrived early to work, the suit states.
The suit alleges that Graham Gentles’ suicide last July 18 was directly related to his treatment by Target management.