A distraught mother is suing Target for her son's suicide. The employee was allegedly paraded around the store in what is being called a "walk of shame," according to the lawsuit.
Virginia Gentles is going after the big box retailer after her 22-year-old son and former Target employee Graham jumped to his death from the roof of the Courtyard Marriott three days after he was fired. The young man worked as a cashier at the Pasadena, California store, and was humiliated when he was subjected to what the family's attorney called a "walk of shame," a ritual during which the employee is paraded around the store in handcuffs, according to NBC Los Angeles.
Mrs. Gentles is squarely putting the blame for her son's suicide on Target and says she wants to prevent any other mother from suffering a similar tragedy. She filed the lawsuit against the retailer on Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging false imprisonment, negligence, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
"I don't want any other mother to have to go through what I've gone through. This is my only child."
The former Target employee jumped to his death from the roof of the Courtyard Marriott just three days after he was fired and supposedly paraded around the store in front of fellow employees and customers.
"The only thing he said to me at that moment was, 'Mom this is the worst day of my life,'" Virginia Gentles recalls.
Target Corp. is not commenting, as an investigation to determine any wrongdoing is underway and the lawsuit has not been resolved. However, the retailer issued a statement through their spokesman, Evan Lapiska, on Friday, offering condolences to Gentles' family.
"Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of this individual. As this is pending litigation, we don't have further comment at this time."
The complaint alleges that Gentles was met by police and store security as soon as he arrived to work on the day in question. Two members of store management ordered the Target employee be handcuffed, and he was escorted to an office where he was interrogated, attorney Patrick McNicholas said.
"While he was cuffed he was paraded through the store into a room and was interrogated there. He was then paraded back out to the store, put into a patrol car, and taken to Pasadena police station."
The lawsuit also states that other Target employees have allegedly suffered similar actions from management in the past. In spite of the humiliation, Gentles was later released and never charged with any crime.
"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 policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers."
The suit alleges that Gentles' confrontation with another Target employee, outside of work several months prior prompted the "walk of shame" that his mother believes led to his suicide. Additionally, Gentles suffered from Aspergers syndrome, a form of autism, and the loss of his job may have precipitated his death.
In the lawsuit, attorneys argue that Graham Gentles' suicide was a direct result of the way in which Target treated its employee. In a statement to NBC4 on Friday, Target said it did not have a "walk of shame" policy, but could not comment any further.