Saturday, August 7, 2010

Connecticut shooter alleged racist bullying prior to incident

Was Omar Thornton the victim of workplace bullying? Is this what led him to go on a shooting rampage at Hartford Distributors? In a call to 911 just prior to turning the gun on himself, Thornton said, "This place is a racist place. They treat me bad over here and all the other black employees bad over here too." And, although the company's CEO, Ross Hollander, denies these allegations, Thornton's girlfriend, Kristi Hannah confirms Thornton's co-workers had been harassing him regularly.

"He said every day when he'd come in, there'd be new stuff on the [bathroom] wall," Hannah said in an interview on Good Morning America. "One was a hangman with a noose around his neck and underneath it said, 'Kill the n-word.'"

Hannah said Thornton had shown her cell phone photos he had taken of the racial slurs written in the bathroom.

Certainly, there's never an excuse for someone committing such a heinous act. But everyone has his own breaking point. If this man had been systematically harassed for months and his employer was aware of this, something should have been done. The company said he turned violent after having been presented with evidence that he had been stealing beer from the company and reselling it, and was about to be fired. That would certainly give them reason to let him go and it appears these charges are true, which would somewhat undermine his reasoning for the shooting rampage.

Still, workplace bullying affects everyone differently. One person may simply turn their anger inward, while another may react violently. There are even cases where bullied employees killed themselves rather than face another day of abuse. Laws need to be in place to set a process in motion that would encourage employers to investigate charges of bullying in the workplace. As it stands, employers tend to take the side of the bullies, who are most frequently in a management position. A law that would allow abused workers to sue a company would ensure employers take these charges seriously, and hopefully, deal with the situation before it explodes.

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