This Job Is Murder!
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following vignette is based on a case where the author has
been retained as an expert witness. The example involves
violence in the workplace.
alterations of fact patterns have been deliberately made in
order to protect families, and preserve settlement agreements.
This is a work in progress, and new cases will be added regularly.
feedback, questions and inquiries are welcome.
Publication Pending, ©Copyright2002 J. R. Roberts, Security Strategies
One: "Floria" PDF
is the number one cause of death for women in the American workplace"
was an almost perfect example of the American dream.
As a young woman, she fled the tyranny of Castro's Cuba for a new
life in the United States. She learned English and worked hard,
eventually becoming a pharmacist and going to work for a
Well- known national chain of drug stores.
62 years old, Floria had worked for the same company for almost
3 0 years, had won the admiration and respect of her customers and
co-workers, and was a devoted wife and loving grandmother. The night
before her murder, Floria visited her daughter. Although it was
late, she insisted on going upstairs to give her grandchildren "besitos"
could tell she was upset." Her daughter later remembered in
a deposition. "She was almost in tears and a nervous wreck.
I knew why, of course. It was the continuing problem at work. It
was a man named Robert. Standing over 6' 2", the 32 year-old
was also a pharmacist in the drug store where Floria worked. Co-workers
referred to Robert as a "firecracker". A man with a violent
and volatile temper, Robert also experienced severe mood swings.
The manager of the store commented that it was common for him to
go for several weeks without saying a word to anyone.
During the course of the year that he worked at this particular
store, Robert had to be restrained from attacking a customer. The
assistant manager on duty at the time testified "He was out
of control, wanting to fight this guy. We had to hold him back.
He (Robert) said he was going to go to his car and get his gun to
shoot the guy."
this same time- period, numerous customer complaints cited Robert
as rude and abusive. On several occasions he was heard swearing
at co-workers, and wrote a letter to a doctor calling the physician
"an incompetent motherfucker and so called doctor."
complaints and reports, no disciplinary action was taken against
and Robert worked overlapping shifts for several peak hours at the
often left his work undone, the pharmacy area a mess, and supplies
low. When Floria complained to the younger man, he responded by yelling
at her, blaming others, or lapsing into sullen silences.
Floria complained to the store manager and told her that she was becoming
fearful of Robert. The manager confessed that she too feared the man.
Some months before, Floria arrived on duty just as a customer discovered
that they had been given the wrong medication.
The pharmacist on duty was Robert. When the error was brought to his
attention, Robert began to scatter pills in all directions, hurl a
clipboard across the room, and scream at the top of his lungs. As
frightened customers fled the store,Robert continued his rant at Floria,
calling her "an old hag from Hell" and "a shit eater."
He announced to all that he "would get her."
The following day, Floria wrote a lengthy letter of complaint to the
district manager of the store and to the human resources department
at the corporate headquarters.
It was weeks before she received a form letter back, telling her that
her complaint had been received. No action was taken against Robert,
and his behavior continued to deteriorate, becoming more erratic.
Later that year, the regional manager responsible for the pharmacists
conducted his annual review.
As she had for 3 0 years, Floria received the highest accolades for
her job performance.
For the first time in six years of employment, Robert was rated as
"needing to improve in all areas". "In my entire career
in the industry, I have never had someone react to an evaluation the
way Robert did." The regional manager would later admit. "It's
not unusual for people to be disappointed or defensive when given
a poor job performance rating, but Robert immediately began to raise
his voice. He was shouting at me and telling me I didn't know what
I was doing. It took me over an hour to calm him down. He left, saying
he would consult a lawyer and sue the company."
In fact, Robert wrote a long, rambling letter that he delivered in
person to the local administrative offices for the company.
Perhaps because of the letter, perhaps because of increasing customer
complaints, or tensions at the store, a meeting was scheduled two
days before the final act of this tragedy was played out. Present
at the meeting were Floria, Robert, the store manager, two employees
of the store and a district manager who had been newly promoted and
on the job for less than a month.
The district manager freely admitted after the fact that he had never
seen or reviewed the personnel records for any of the individuals
present. As the meeting progressed, Robert sat to one side, rhythmically
banging a metal combination lock onto the table.
Floria was asked if she were afraid of Robert, and when she responded
that she was, the district manager turned to Robert to ask if she
had any reason to fear him. After a moment, Robert replied "I
will only hurt her if she hurts me." The meeting concluded without
any resolution or action.
The following day, Robert did not come into work.
Floria asked yet again, if either Robert or she might be transferred
to another store. She reiterated that she was terrified of him and
couldn't work with him. The store manager assured her that "something
would be done" and to continue to work the old schedule "just
for a few more days." Reluctantly, Floria agreed.
following day as the time neared for Robert to arrive, Floria
went one last time to the store manager and tearfully pleaded to
be allowed to leave work in order to avoid her colleague. The manager
asked her to stay and again promised a change.
Robert arrived at the usual time and went to his work-station. He
spoke to no one and did not return the greetings extended by various
employees. Shortly after his arrival, Robert received a telephone
call from the district manager inquiring about personal long distance
telephone calls made from work.
Robert lost control and began to scream into the telephone, calling
the manager a "son of a bitch" repeatedly, then challenging
him to come to the store to fight. At this point Robert slammed
the telephone down, picked up a stool and smashed a computer to
pieces. Floria and another employee walked quickly away from the
area. Robert followed, seized Floria by the neck with his arm, drew
the diminutive woman to him and shot her twice in the head at point
case could almost serve as a blueprint of corporate negligence.
The overwhelming failure to take corrective or interventive measures
by the company to protect employees and customers is made even more
egregious by knowledge the company had of prior acts by this employee.
During his first 90 days of employment, (six years before murdering
Floria ) Robert had to be physically restrained by two co-workers
from physically assaulting a customer. The customer was a pregnant
woman. The reason for the assault given was that Robert "didn't
like the way she was looking at him." In a defiant letter,
Robert wrote his manager that "he would do the same thing again
Rather than terminate the pharmacist, this company chose to engage
in a practice all too common in many corporations. They simply began
to transfer the problem employee from store to store. At every subsequent
location without exception, customers and employees complained of
Robert's behavior. These complaints ranged from foul and abusive
language, to the fact that at least two employees repeatedly witnessed
Robert carrying a gun at work.
Over a six-year period, there was a systemic failure by human resources
and loss prevention to identify and correct a problem that lead
to a foreseeable, unnecessary tragic death. Given the awesome life
and death power a pharmacist wields over his customers, perhaps
the only positive element in this case, is that other innocent lives
were not lost. In the name of expediency, hundreds of thousands
of employees and innocent consumers are put at risk each year by
companies who fail to properly evaluate two critical components
of security management essential to "best practices".
performance indicates future behavior"
thorough and adequate background check is intended to eliminate
obviously unsuitable candidates and to make potential employers
aware of "gray area" candidates. In other words, those
that merit more scrutiny and investigation before hire.
An evaluation of "Robert" (the subject/killer in this
case) would have shown that he was dismissed from a foreign medical
school for "improper behavior." He then enrolled in a
pharmacy school where he had low grades. His senior year, Robert
became convinced that a fellow student had "defaced" his
notebook. He threatened the student repeatedly, then informed his
roommate that he was going to purchase a gun and shoot the "offender".
School security detained him and he was remanded to mandatory counseling.
The school psychologist considered Robert "potentially violent".
A number of reputable firms throughout the country offer pre-employment
screening instruments designed to identify aggression. Perhaps more
telling in this particular instance was behavior. In addition to
the instances previously mentioned, Robert exhibited almost classic
behavior consistent with the profile of those more likely to commit
violent acts in the workplace.
behaviors included the following:
¨ Robert was a "loner".
At 32 he had no social life, had never had a significant relationship,
and lived in a room in his parents' home.
¨ He had no outside
activities or hobbies.
¨ He was dishelved
and unkempt in his appearance.
¨ He had extreme mood
swings, ranging from friendly, to completely withdrawn or hostile.
¨ He rejected authority
and would not accept criticism of any kind.
¨ He made threats
against others and was demonstrably violent, seemingly lacking all
¨ He had irrational
and vocal biases against a group for whom he blamed his own inadequacies.
In this case, he spoke disparagingly of women, and in particular
older women. In other instances this "symptom" may manifest
itself through a focus on a racial or religious group.
and responsible businesses must begin to use consistent policies
and procedures to screen, hire, and supervise employees.
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of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries Study,
Roger DePue, Lecture to the International Society of Crime Prevention
Practitioners, Montreal, Canada 1986