- The family of Evan Seyfried, who died by suicide in March 2021, is suing his employer, claiming he was harassed and bullied.
- The lawsuit against Kroger challenges a decades-old precedent in Ohio that prevents statutory blame in suicide cases.
- The case sheds light on rising suicide rates and growing worker discontent in the United States.
An Ohio family is suing Kroger over the wrongful death of their son after the former dairy manager killed himself, in a lawsuit challenging a decades-old state precedent.
Evan Seyfried’s family alleges store managers harassed and bullied him, which ultimately led to Seyfried taking his own life in March 2021. According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the family alleges the company took part in a “terrorist campaign” against their son, which included ridiculing Seyfried and calling him “Antifa” for wearing a mask at work, to protect himself from COVID-19, put expired products on shelves he managed, and sexually harassed and stalked him.
Specifically, the lawsuit names directors Shannon Frazee and Joseph Pigg as instigators of the alleged harassment against Seyfried. According to the investigator-reviewed lawsuit and documents, Frazee Seyfried allegedly showed off her cleavage during a meeting and began the nickname “Antifa.”
“It’s kind of embarrassing for a guy to say he’s being molested by a woman,” Seyfried wrote to a colleague about Frazee the week of his death, according to the lawsuit. “She’s made the situation in the store very stressful for the past year.”
Pigg, the lawsuit alleges, told Seyfried he could hack into Seyfried’s computer and track his internet usage, and later allegedly sent him obscene and pornographic messages from unknown numbers.
Kroger did not respond to Insider’s request for comment, but told the Enquirer he is not commenting on ongoing litigation. The company claims “the Kroger defendants cannot be held accountable,” according to court filings.
The lawsuit challenges a “suicide rule” that has been on the Ohio books since 1983. It prevents a person or institution from being legally blamed for a death caused by suicide. Similar precedents exist in several other US states, and the case sheds light on rising suicide rates across the country.
This is also happening amid growing efforts by workers to speak out against abuse and push for better conditions, sparking a wave of unionization across all sectors. Growing discontent early in the pandemic also led to a surge in “anger giving up,” leading to labor shortages as companies struggled to retain and attract talent.
Officials from Local 75 of United Food and Commercial Workers International, the union that represents Seyfried and his store, told the Enquirer that complaints from members against their employers have increased during the pandemic. The union was trying to move Seyfried to another store in the area before his death.
Seyfried’s death has sparked a movement among former colleagues, friends, family members and community members holding events as part of an anti-bullying group, Justice for Evan.
“Our goal is to continue to raise public awareness of Evan’s story and the systemic toxic work culture at Kroger stores across the country,” the group wrote in a Facebook post last month. “With this action, bullying and bullying should not arise in the first place.”