The family of Evan Seyfried, who died by suicide in March 2021, is suing his employer claiming he was harassed and bullied.
The lawsuit against Kroger challenges a decades-old precedent in Ohio that prevents placing legal blame in the case of suicide.
The case sheds light on both rising suicide rates and growing worker discontent in the US.
An Ohio family is suing Kroger for the wrongful death of their son after the former dairy manager killed himself, in a lawsuit that challenges a decades-old legal precedent in the state.
Evan Seyfried's family claims store managers harassed and bullied him, ultimately causing Seyfried to take his own life in March 2021. Per the Cincinnati Enquirer, the family alleges the company engaged in a "campaign of terror" against their son that included ridiculing Seyfried, calling him "antifa" for wearing a mask at work to protect against COVID-19, placing expired products on shelves he managed, and sexually harassing and stalking him.
Specifically, the suit names store managers Shannon Frazee and Joseph Pigg as instigators of the alleged harassment against Seyfried. Per the lawsuit and documents reviewed by the Enquirer, Frazee allegedly flashed her cleavage at Seyfried during a meeting and started the "antifa" nickname.
"It's kind of an embarrassing thing for a dude to say he's being sexually harassed by a lady," Seyfried texted a coworker about Frazee the week of his death, according to the lawsuit. "She's made the situation in the store very stressful for the last whole year."
Pigg, the suit claims, told Seyfried he could hack into Seyfried's computer and track his internet usage, and later allegedly sent him obscene and pornographic messages from unknown numbers.
Kroger did not respond to Insider's request for comment, but told the Enquirer it does not comment on ongoing litigation. The company maintains, "Kroger defendants cannot be held responsible," according to court filings.
The suit challenges a long-held "suicide rule" on the books in Ohio since 1983. It prevents placing legal blame on a person or institution for death caused by suicide. Similar legal precedent exists in several other US states, and the case sheds light on rising suicide rates across the country.
It also comes amid a growing effort among employees to speak out against mistreatment and push for better conditions, catalyzing a wave of unionization across industries. Growing discontent early in the pandemic also led to the rise of "rage quitting," which led to a labor shortage as companies struggled to maintain and attract talent.
Officials for Local 75 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International, the union representing Seyfried and his store, told the Enquirer grievances from members against their employers have increased during the pandemic. The union was in the process of attempting to relocate Seyfried to a different store in the area prior to his death.
Seyfried's death has prompted a movement among former colleagues, friends, family, and community members who hold events as part of an anti-bullying group, Justice for Evan.
"Our purpose is to continue to raise public awareness about Evan's story and the systemic toxic work culture in Kroger stores across the country," the group wrote in a Facebook post last month. "This action is to prevent bullying and mobbing from happening in the first place."
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