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Should Target be held responsible for employee’s suicide?

(Editorial) After a devastating tragedy, a mother speaks out against Target: should the brand be to blame?

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A newly filed lawsuit against Target

Recently, a Los Angeles mom filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Target. She’s claiming that her son’s suicide was “proximately caused” by the way he was treated when Target’s managers accused him of stealing. The 22-year old man was arrested in the store and taken to the police car in handcuffs. His mom is calling it a “walk of shame” and states that her son was mortified over his treatment.

Graham Gentles, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, committed suicide just three days after the incident. The lawsuit names Target Corp. and the two managers of the store who were on duty when Gentles was arrested.

There’s no denying that this young man’s death is tragic. He was arrested, but never charged. The police released him later in the day. The humiliation and embarrassment he felt while being taken to the police station is completely justifiable.

Losing a child is never easy, even more so when the child makes the choice to end his own life. Gentles’ mom is rightfully angry, but should Target be held liable?

The managers probably could have handled the situation more tactfully. Still, the question remains, “how should they take a suspected criminal to the police station?” Gentles’ mom is seeking punitive damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, and negligence.

Should Target be held responsible for this tragedy?

Should Target have been negligent in their duty to innocent shoppers by allowing a suspect to walk freely to the police car? The police had no way of knowing if Gentles would cooperate or not. They have a duty to follow procedure.

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The Target managers suspected theft and had a duty to report and follow store policy. The lawsuit asserts that other Target employees have made the “walk of shame” on other occasions, and yet there are no other complaints of other people who committed suicide.

It doesn’t appear that Target is the bully that Gentles’ mom claims it to be. Although Gentles wasn’t charged, there’s no indication as to why he wasn’t. His mom believes in his innocence, but it’s hard to believe that Target Corp. would have called in the police without strong belief that a large theft had occurred.

This incident certainly is a factor in this man’s choice to kill himself. However, mental health experts traditionally note that suicide is more complex than just one incident. Gentles had other options, but he did not have the coping skills to see any other way out of his situation. Who gets the blame for that?

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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