A Family Dollar store in Orlando, Fla. could pay $330,446 in penalties after the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) investigation into a fatal shoplifting incident uncovered “willful and repeat safety violations.”
On Dec. 11, shortly after struggling with a shoplifter who was able to escape with merchandise, a 41-year-old store employee experienced shortness of breath and nausea, according to DOL. An assistant manager called 911, but the employee later died at a local hospital.
The dollar-store empire, whose rat infestation made headlines earlier this year, has seen more than its fair share of crime. Memphis Police arrested Jeremy Jennings on June 30 after he reportedly pinned a Family Dollar employee with a vehicle before fleeing with roughly $133 in stolen children’s clothes and diapers, according to WREG.com.
When DOL concluded its probe into December, its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) division cited Family Dollar Stores Inc. for entrapment hazards and issued a hazard alert letter for exposing employees to hazardous conditions associated with workplace violence. OSHA urged the company to develop and train employees on proper procedures in case of a robbery or shoplifting incident, and to provide a means for workers to request immediate assistance from the local police department or alarm company.
OSHA cited the national discount retailer for a willful violation for keeping an emergency exit door locked with a single key held by management. The agency also issued citations for two repeat violations for failing to keep an unobstructed pathway for workers to walk through, and for allowing aisles to remain obstructed by carts and merchandise boxes.
“Family Dollar has shown time and again that their priority is profits, not their employees,” Sarah Carle, OSHA area office director in Orlando, said. “Our inspection revealed multiple unsafe conditions that management should have addressed, including locked doors and blocked exits. Tragically, someone lost their life as a result of an altercation. Incidents such as this can be averted when workers are trained on a violence prevention program that empowers them to recognize and avoid risks on the job.”
DOL said the low-cost company has a long history of OSHA investigations at locations nationwide. The retailer is owned by Dollar Tree Inc., a Chesapeake, Va.-based employer of more than 193,000.
The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.
The company did not immediately return a request for comment.
Additional reporting by Jessica Binns.