A mother in Pasadena, California, sued Target over her son’s suicide, which was reportedly the result of a humiliating disciplinary measure that involved police intervention and handcuffs.
Graham Gentles, 22, was working as a cashier at a Pasadena Target store when he was one day subjected to the “walk of shame,” a disciplinary practice that involves employees being paraded around the store in handcuffs, placed in a police car and taken into custody.
According to Virginia Gentles’ lawsuit, her son arrived at work last July and was immediately met by police and store security. He was then handcuffed and led throughout the store to an office.
“Mr. Gentles was shocked, confused and mortified at being handcuffed and walked through the Target store in front of co-workers and customers,” the suit read. “Mr. Gentles had no idea why he was being arrested.''
Gentles was taken to a police station, where he was questioned and subsequently released. He was never charged with any crime.
“The only thing he said to me at that moment was, 'Mom this is the worst day of my life,'" Virginia Gentles said.
Gentles was terminated, and three days later jumped to his death from the roof of a Courtyard Marriott hotel. His mother’s attorney, Patrick McNicholas, said that Gentles had Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of Autism that causes those afflicted to hyperfocus and obsess over certain incidents.
“The nature of Aspergers he tended to hyper focus and so he was very hyper focused on this," McNicholas said. “He was hyper focused on his loss and it was a perfect storm which resulted in his death."
The lawsuit claimed that the “walk of shame” is a storewide disciplinary policy specifically intended to humiliate employees.
“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 suit stated. "The policy consists of employees being arrested and paraded in handcuffs through the Target store in full view of co-workers and customers.''
In a statement, Target denied the existence of such a policy, but offered their condolences to Virginia and her family.
“Our thoughts and sympathies go out to the friends and family of this individual,” spokesman Evan Lapiska said. “As this is pending litigation, we don't have further comment at this time.''
Virginia said that she chose to file a lawsuit against the company because she didn’t want anyone else to endure the pain her son’s death caused her.
“I don't want any other mother to have to go through what I've gone through,” she said. “This is my only child.”