Terri Saunders (not her real name), a Wal-Mart employee, was forcefully and brutally raped by her Wal-Mart supervisor while she was at work in the early morning hours of February 19, 1995.The supervisor who raped Terri had been working for Wal-Mart for more than ten years. Terri worked as an assistant customer service clerk at the automotive department at a Wal-Mart store in the Tulsa, OK area. Her duties included opening and closing the automotive store, securing the cash register, and conducting inventory assessments. Her assailant had made sexual advances towards her for more than a year. She was raped in the automotive store at Wal-Mart on a morning when her supervisor knew she was scheduled to open the store, and would have been alone there for several hours. During the course of the rape, Terri was pinned to the wall and thrown onto the floor. She suffered a back injury, and additional injuries to the head and left arm. She has a skin rash today for which there is no apparent physical cause. After the rape, Terri ordeals continued. She sought treatment for psychological counseling. When Terri went to file for a workman’s compensation claim to pay for these sessions, Wal-Mart objected to the claim, and began a three year legal battle with Terri. A trial court ruled that Terri’s back injury was compensable, and ordered workman’s comp benefits to be paid. Wal-Mart appealed that ruling to a three judge panel, where the court’s ruling remain essentially the same. Wal-Mart continued their legal battle to deny Terri her benefits. An Oklahoma court of Civil Appeals reversed Terri’s award for psychological treatment, saying that her psychological injury did not arise from her back injury, and was not compensable under state law. Terri continued her legal fight to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. In February of 1998, the OK Supreme Court ruled that Terri’s rape was an accidental injury that arose in the course of her employment at Wal-Mart. Although the rape was a willful and intentional criminal act on the part of the Wal-Mart supervisor, it was deemed accidental for the purpose of the workman’s compensation act. The Supreme Court said that Terri’s employment at Wal-Mart “put her in greater danger than those in the general public”. “There is evidence in the record,” the Court found, “that the Claimant’s assailant, who was also her supervisor, used his knowlege of the employee scheduling to attack Claimant while she was alone, and while the automotive department was closed to the public.” On top of this outragaoue sexual assault, Terri had to put up with three years of legal fighting with Wal-Mart, the company that claims it’s basic principle for workers is “respect for the individual”. It took Terri three years, but she finally got some respect.
Similar stories about Wal-Mart employees, or other “associates” as big box retailers who have been wronged or injured, should be sent to: Sprawl-Busters, 21 Grinnell St, Greenfield, MA 01301, or sent email to: [email protected]