A grocery store courtesy clerk in California claims his employer terminated him after he applied for worker’s compensation following three assaults against him in less than three months while on the job.
Austin Sherrell, 23, was employed at a Vons grocery store in Bakersfield for about three years bagging groceries, wrangling shopping carts and emptying trash bins before he was fired, according to local NBC affiliate KGET.
Vons parent company, Albertson’s, is expected to combine with Kroger in a $26.4 billion deal which was announced last year.
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Sherrell’s termination came after he claims he was assaulted twice near the store’s dumpster and once inside the store. The United Food and Commercial Workers 8 Golden State President Jacques Loveall has claimed his termination was “unwarranted” based on the union’s findings, KGET reported.
The first incident allegedly happened Jan. 19, when Sherrell said he was left bleeding after two shoplifting assailants punched him and pepper-sprayed him while he was taking out the garbage. He told KGET the suspects had fled by the time police arrived.
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On March 17, another incident took place near the dumpster when a man attacked him with a knife. Sherrell said he would have been stabbed if not for a roll of trash bags he had in his apron. The suspect was gone before police were able to respond.
“The first incident didn’t shake me too much, but the second incident, like, when you are close to death, I’m the most shook up I’ve ever been in my entire life,” Sherrell told KGET. “The most scared I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
The third incident occurred April 1 when two women in the store told Sherrell a man was harassing them and likely under the influence. Sherrell claimed he tried in vain to get the manager and store security to deal with the situation and had to deal with it himself.
“He gets in my face, he’s cussing me out, he’s threatening my life,” Sherrell said. “I back away, he comes back in my face. I back away again. The third time I defend myself, I push him off of me.”
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Bakersfield Police confirmed to KGET that there were calls at the Vons store address each of the three days the assaults against Sherrell allegedly took place but said no arrests were made.
After he applied for worker’s compensation amid panic attacks following the three incidents, Sherrell said he was asked to take time off before his work hours were reduced, and he was ultimately terminated. His father has since set up a GoFundMe to help with his son’s expenses, noting that he has struggled to find work with a termination on his record.
“You know, not to toot my own horn, a lot of people say that they like me,” Sherrell told the local outlet. “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, we like that [employee].’ … Like, I hear it. I hear it all the time.” He also said he is mildly autistic and has “a hard time processing things.”
Sherrell said he misses the customers he got to know while working at the supermarket.
“For the customers who might recognize me, who are seeing this, I’d like to say, ‘It’s been really nice meeting such great people,'” he told KGET.
“Our union is, as always, focused on fair treatment of our members according to rules laid down in their union-negotiated contracts,” Loveall said in a statement to the local outlet. “These rules establish a grievance process which guarantees representation by Mr. Sherrell’s UFCW 8 District union representative, who will stand with him every step of the way to ensure his rights are respected fully.”
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Crime at retailers in California, especially in San Francisco, has escalated in recent years, driving many to leave the city or reduce locations, including T. Mobile, Amazon’s Whole Foods and Nordstrom’s to name a few.
FOX Business has reached out to Vons’ corporate office for comment.
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