Why a surviving Chesapeake Walmart employee is Suing Walmart for $50 million

December 3, 2022

We are still learning the horrific details following the murder of six Chesapeake Walmart employees killed allegedly at the hands of a colleague. Chesapeake police have published a note found on the alleged killer’s phone whereby he states why he was led to the killing.

Last week, a Walmart employee who survived the killings but witnessed the shootings filed a $50 million lawsuit in Chesapeake Circuit Court claiming that Walmart engaged in “Negligent Hiring & Retention” and had “Respondeat Superior Liability.”

Her lawsuit, while unproven allegations at this point, give insight into the prior alleged misconduct by the alleged killer, whose name will not be mentioned in this article.

The plaintiff, Donya Prioleau, worked at the Chesapeake Walmart as an overnight stocker and trainer since May 2021. She claims the alleged killer was a team lead responsible for managing the overnight stocking crew, including Prioleau, and had worked at the Walmart since 2010.

She alleges the team lead “demonstrated a pattern of disturbing behavior leading up to the shooting, which Walmart knew, or should have known” and this “put Walmart on notice that [the team lead] was violent and could harm others.”

Prioleau described that many employees and managers “observed [the team lead] exhibit bizarre and threatening behavior leading up to the shooting.”

Specifically, Prioleau alleges that on Sept.10, six weeks before the killing, she filed a formal complaint on a Walmart Global Ethics Statement Form indicating that the team lead had “bizarrely and inappropriately” commented on Prioleau’s age stating, “Isn’t your lady clock ticking? Shouldn’t you be having kids?” She also complained that the team lead harassed her for being “poor and being short.” She claims that she told Walmart that the team lead called her a derogatory name under his breath as she walked past.

Prioleau also alleges that her mother was so concerned with her daughter working with the team lead that she went to Walmart on the same date that Prioleau filed the complaint and talked to the store manager to advocate for her daughter because she was “very concerned” for her daughter’s safety. The mother allegedly told Walmart management that their concerns were falling on “deaf ears.” The mother was allegedly told by the store manager that there was nothing that could be done about the team lead because he was liked by management.

Prioleau alleges that Walmart’s management received “numerous reports that [the team lead] was bullying, threatening, and harassing other employees” and that Walmart knew or should have known that he was acting “inappropriately, bizarrely, and dangerously.”

Prioleau also alleged that the team lead asked her if he could “borrow her hair” and asked her if she liked guns. The team lead also allegedly told other employees that if he was terminated he would retaliate and “people will remember my name.”

The team lead also bragged about how he killed a turtle to “see its [guts] spray out,” according to the Complaint, and that the team lead had a reputation as someone to “watch out for.”

Prioleau alleges the team lead was also paranoid, telling employees that the government was watching him and he allegedly kept black tape on his phone so no one could spy on him. He also asked employees if they received active shooter training and when they said they had, he “smiled and walked away.”

All this leads to the critical question. If these allegations are true — Why was this person working there for 12 years? Based on the alleged facts, this individual was abusive, disruptive, intimidating and extremely off-putting. While it’s reasonable that employers engage in progressive discipline and second chances, any employee who is universally known to be the one to “watch out” for should be removed sooner rather than later. The longer an employee remains in the workplace, the more likely the employee will escalate and become invested.

It is critical that employers not only establish a complaint mechanism, but that they also investigate all allegations of misconduct. Employers need to make objective decisions to maintain a safe and respectful workplace for all employees.

Prioleau’s allegations are troubling and should give employers pause to retain employees who fall into the same bullying, harassing, threatening, inappropriate, bizarre or dangerous behaviors.

Walmart will have an opportunity to share its version of events and respond to the lawsuit, including disputing any facts alleged. It’s a terrible situation all around.