CINCINNATI — The manager of a Kroger store in Milford created "disturbing, dangerous, and deranged conditions," ultimately leading to an employee's death by suicide, according to a lawsuit filed Monday with the Hamilton County clerk of courts.
Forty-year-old Kroger dairy manager Evan Seyfried was "(a) dutiful Kroger employee (who) reported to work each and every day during a pandemic ready to provide a quality, safe product, yet was tormented by his own superiors inside of the building that promised to keep all customers and associates safe," Austin LiPuma, attorney for Seyfried's father, Kenneth Seyfried, said in a news release.
"Like so many in this community, his job at Kroger was his identity," said LiPuma. "It was everything to him."
Evan Seyfried died March 9 "with no prior history of severe mental health concerns," the suit states. "Kroger intentionally subjected Evan to torturous conditions that were directly responsible for his death."
The suit goes on to accuse a manager at the grocery chain's Milford, Ohio, location of instigating "a campaign (in October 2020) dedicated to ousting Evan while proclaiming her intention to make Evan's life a 'living hell.'"
"And then, from that point on, this is fall 2020, because of his refusals to comply with, quite frankly, dangerous conduct," said LiPuma. "They then targeted him with just, as I mentioned, completely indescribable behavior."
The suit claims the manager's feud with Evan Seyfried stemmed, in part, from concerns he had raised concerning COVID-19, which led to "hazing, taunting and bullying" and attempts to sabotage his work.
As part of the alleged bullying, Seyfried's boss "mocked and humiliated" him for wearing a mask — in line with the company's pandemic policies — as well as for his political beliefs, the suit states.
"There is absolutely nothing else indicative that Evan had any issues with mental illness, no history of any issues whatsoever," said LiPuma. "And every single complaint that led up to that fateful day was solely attributable to those garish stories in conduct from that location."
WCPO reached out to a Kroger spokesperson Monday afternoon but did not hear back.
The lawsuit seeks a jury trial on multiple claims against the company and two named managers including wrongful death; conspiracy; intentional infliction of emotional distress; negligent infliction of emotional distress; invasion of privacy; sexual harassment, and reckless, willful and wanton conduct, among others.
"We also have so many questions, knowing that Evan attempted to blow the whistle to say 'these are the people supposed to protect me, I'm trying to put you on notice,'" said LiPuma.