August 28th, 2012

An employee of a water utility company has filed a lawsuit against her employer and several managers, following an incident in which the male managers participated in a staged robbery of the utility office.

The incident occurred shortly after the whole staff received training on how to properly respond to a robbery at the office. The office handles a significant amount of cash in a normal business day and robberies were a concern. One of the managers decided that in order to find out if the training had been effective, that he should stage a robbery and see how the female employees reacted.

In order to do this, he cleared the office of all male employees on a single day. Next, he entered the office wearing a ski mask and sunglasses and passed one of the women a note saying that he was armed and that he wanted all of the money. The woman complied with the request very shakily and pleaded with him not to shoot her. During that time both she and other employee attempted to use their silent alarm buttons but were unsuccessful.

After it was over the woman was so upset that she was unable to operate the phone to call the police. When her boss returned to say that it was a test, she broke down crying for about an hour.

The woman has now brought a lawsuit against her employer for the emotional distress that she suffered during the staged robbery. She says that she is unable to sleep, has nightmares, and suffers from depression as a result of the incident.

In addition to the fact that an employer conducted such a violent and frightening drill to begin with, it is also quite disturbing that he singled out female employees. The supervisor’s handling of the woman’s distress afterwards by isolating each of the female employees for an extended period of time also calls into question that person’s judgment and treatment of women in the workplace.

More information about employee rights and women’s rights in the workplace is available on our Minnesota employment law website.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Worker Says ‘Test’ Robbery Devastated Her,” Rebekah Kearn, August 28, 2012.

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