After surviving a horrific tragedy like the 2017 Las Vegas massacre, you would expect that your employer would show a little empathy. Perhaps your boss would give you a few days of paid time off to cope with the traumatic experience–or at least a few sick days.
Unfortunately this wasn’t the case for one Connecticut man whose bosses couldn’t muster the least bit of empathy, and instead told him to “suck it up” and “get over it” after he experienced the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Charles Giampaolo was one of the many attendees at the October 2017 Route 91 Harvest country music festival, where gunman Stephen Paddock fired over 1,100 rounds into the huge crowd. Giampaolo’s father-in-law was standing next to him before being fatally struck by a bullet, according to the legal complaint.
His aunt and his wife’s cousin were also among the 500 concert goers who sustained non-fatal gunshot wounds that night. At the time, Giampaolo and his wife Jessica were forced to use a belt and a phone charger to staunch their relatives’ bleeding while the shooter fired indiscriminately into the crowd.
Within three weeks of the massacre, Giampaolo returned to work at Elevator Service Co., Inc. (ESCO), where he had worked since 2015 as a maintenance repairman who had previously been promoted twice by management.
However, upon returning to work he began experiencing panic attacks, insomnia, nightmares, claustrophobia and extreme anxiety. He soon consulted a therapist, who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Despite the diagnosis, Giampaolo continued to work diligently and “did not miss a beat at work,” according to the lawsuit, scheduling all of his needed therapy appointments during lunch breaks or after he clocked out.
After being back to work for a month, Giampaolo attended a work event with nearly 800 people in attendance. The huge crowd, pumping strobe lights and loud music caused his palms to get sweaty, his heart rate to escalate, and made him feel like the walls were beginning to close in. He immediately left the event after telling ESCO owners Stephen and Linda Roth that he was having a panic attack and thus needed to leave.
At that point, the employers’ attitude “morphed from warm support to outright hostility,” according to the complaint.
Linda Roth began accusing Giampaolo of having a “bad attitude” and of being “different,” criticisms he had never heard in his three years working at ESCO. The traumatized hard worker was then further subject to a grinding campaign of workplace hostility meant to force him out of the company.
When Giampaolo complained about “miserable” working conditions to Steve Roth, who he had once seen as a “mentor and father figure,” Roth berated him and told him to “suck it up.”
The owners then stripped Giampaolo of his managerial position. As the criticism and scrutiny intensified, Giampaolo struggled with the pressure and began showing negative signs emotionally. Management then began to attack him where it hurt the most: his wallet.
Stephen Roth immediately began manipulating Giampaolo’s commissions, significantly reducing his commission. When Giampaolo asked why the commissions were being reduced, Roth told him: “October has come and gone, you need to get over it.”
When the reductions persisted–resulting in a $500 loss of commission–Giampaolo finally confronted Roth. Roth immediately demanded that Giampaolo leave the building, after which he was informed in an email that this was due to his “unruliness, insubordination, and threatening demeanor.”
Giampaolo responded in a passionate email laying out his heavy grievances:
“I sincerely apologize if the truth that you taking food off my table is complete bullshit but that is how I feel, but in no way was my demeanor ever threatening. You know what’s sad is that we have gotten to this place where now someone I looked up to as a mentor and father figure has allowed hi greed and his own goals to become more important than that of his team’s.”
He then noted how his work conditions were clear retaliation from his mental health issues resulting from the October tragedy:
“Your lack of empathy for me and my family has been noted. Never once have you asked how I am. How am I doing or have just pulled me off to the side and asked if I needed to talk. Instead you attack me where it hurts the most. My pockets.”
Giampaolo subsequently terminated the work arrangement after being demoted in a meeting later that month.
At the meeting, Linda Roth commented, “Should we fire him? Because I’m not going to be able to walk around this building and look at his attitude.” The co-owner also compared Giampaolo’s attitude to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde while noting that when she “got over cancer” she came right back to work. Following her tirade, Stephen Roth laughed, saying “you really pissed her off.”
Giampaolo’s lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount for economic and compensatory damages as well as legal fees for the discrimination he faced as a disabled employee and the creation of a hostile work environment based on disability.
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