CHESAPEAKE, Va. — As the Hampton Roads community grieves the tragic death of six people at the hands of a Walmart employee, questions loom about what, if anything, could have been done to prevent the workplace shooting.
An employee who survived the Chesapeake Walmart mass shooting is now suing the company, saying she'd written complaints about the shooter months before.
Norfolk-based attorney Ray Hogge has over 30 years of experience in employment law representing employers and employees. He told 13News Now there is currently no perfect remedy to prevent this kind of situation, because it is difficult to determine if someone’s actions are foreseeable.
“Human beings are not completely predictable," Hogge said. “You can do what you can do to try to be alert to warning signs, but sometimes there are no warning signs.”
However, Hogge also said sometimes those warning signs are so subtle that it is difficult to identify them as definitive, which puts employers in a tough situation, even in an at-will state like Virginia.
“It’s a tough time in the workplace for both the employer and the employee on how to you predict this king of behavior," said Francina Harrison, founder and CEO of The Career Engineer.
Harrison said she now advises people to ask potential employers about workplace safety policies even during interviews and before accepting a job.
She said they should not be afraid to speak up if they suspect something unusual and companies should have systems in place to hear and address their concerns.
“At the end of the day, don’t just have your interview based on your knowledge, skills and ability," she said. "You gotta' think about environment and safety.”
She said this is new territory for everyone that needs to be addressed.
“Now you gotta think about if you clock in will you be able to clock out and that’s where we are,” she said.
In the meantime, both spoke about the importance of multiple trainings and having risk assessment teams in place to hear concerns and support employees.
When it comes to the lawsuit, because the plaintiff is an employee against an employer, experts say it will be interesting. Hogge said lawyers could possibly attempt to argue it as worker’s compensation complaint.
Hogg said employers are tasked with balancing the interests, rights and concerns of all employees, which he said is not always an easy balance to strike. However, employers need to be vigilant and trained in potential warning signs, he said.
“But on the other end, the reality is, you’re never going to be able to know with certainty in advance when somebody is going to do a horrendous thing like what happened in Chesapeake," he said.