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County attorney to Roundy’s: Rehire stab victim (UPDATE)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A prosecutor in Ramsey County has urged Roundy’s Supermarkets Inc. to reconsider its firing of a St. Paul grocery store manager who said he suffered emotional distress after he was stabbed by a customer.

County Attorney John Choi’s office prosecuted the man who stabbed Scott Ostrom in the chest May 9 at Rainbow Foods. Russell Terry Johnson was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday for an attack prosecutors said was triggered by his anger over a debit card transaction at a self-checkout lane. A notebook in Ostrom’s breast pocket and a plastic name badge partially blocked the knife used to stab him and prevented more serious injuries, according to testimony at Johnson’s trial.

In a victim impact statement read at sentencing, Ostrom, 49, said the stabbing had altered his life “in a huge way.” It was difficult to work in the same store where he was stabbed, but the company refused to relocate him, according to Ostrom.

Roundy’s fired Ostrom in July, one week after Johnson’s trial ended.

“It’s the first time in my life I’ve been out of work,” said Ostrom, who has two sons in college. “I’ve always been a good provider for my family.”

The company contested Ostrom’s unemployment claim with the state Department of Employment and Economic Development and said “absenteeism or tardiness” was the basis for employment misconduct. The state sided with Ostrom and rejected Roundy’s claims.

“The applicant was not excessively absent from work or late to work,” a letter from the state said. “The applicant’s actions were not employment misconduct.”

Ostrom said his anxiety over the stabbing caused him to leave the store on occasion and go outside for a break.

Roundy’s, which owns Rainbow Foods, said in a statement Thursday that the company “took extra care” with Ostrom after the stabbing “because we knew this was an incident that was traumatic for him and his entire store.”

The company said it offered Ostrom counseling and additional time off, “but he refused these offers of support. We honored his wishes, including his insistence that he wanted to immediately resume his responsibilities as the store director of the (St. Paul) Midway store.”

Roundy’s said it learned that Ostrom “was gone on numerous occasions” and “did not tell his supervisor that he needed to be away from the job or could not be in the store.”

“Ending his employment was a very difficult decision; however, in our judgment, he was not meeting his responsibilities to his employees and the company,” the statement said.

A working home telephone number for Ostrom could not be found Thursday evening.

Choi told the St. Paul Pioneer Press he planned to write a letter to the CEO of Milwaukee-based Roundy’s urging the company to rehire Ostrom, of North Branch.

“What strikes me about Mr. Ostrom is that this is very much a common theme among crime victims,” Choi said. “After the traumatic event, the victim often suffers physical, financial and emotional after-effects.”

Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

One comment

  1. Nicholas P Heille

    I am appalled a Rainbow’s dismissal of one of its store managers!

    The State of Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, a third party, has looked at Rainbow management’s decision to fire store manager Scott Ostrom as a decision made in error(*). If Bob Mariano, CEO and chair of Roundy’s Board of Directors, finds fault with that decision, Mr. Mariano should challenge that decision in the courts rather than his public vilification of Mr. Ostrom(**).

    Rainbow in disingenuous, as a regular shopper at Rainbow I have come to appreciate the extraordinary leadership Mr. Ostrom displays. His employees who have described to me the respect they have for him. “Mr. Ostrom is a buffer between the ‘boneheaded owners’ and us ‘the little guys’.” I met Mr. Ostrom when he was the manager of the second largest Rainbow / Roundy Stores that Mr Mariano is CEO of. That store is in northeast Minneapolis, just off 18th and Johnson St.

    I knew Mr. Ostrom as the manager who implemented major store changes for corporate management. He kept the store open. Customers and employees satisfied while the changes took place. The store remained a profit center for Rainbow. After this success story, he was than transferred to the St Paul University Store because of the light rail construction and its impact on the Midway area. Since his transfer to St Paul, he has been called back from the St Paul University Store for other changes in the Northeast store. Why? Because of his leadership.

    If I want a grocery store that is run like a martinet, I’ll shop at Aldi’s. But, it’s people like Scott that put a human face on the shopping experience; he is respected by the employees; and, the fact that he stepped into a volatile situation is very much in character. He did, I am sure, to protect his employees. Scott Ostrom is a man of honor as opposed to the character assassination done by CEO Marian.

    Scott is someone special; and, needs all the public help he can get!

    (*)10-6-11; St Pual MN Pioneer Press; St. Paul Rainbow Foods manager was stabbed. Then he was fired. ;http://www.twincities.com/washington/ci_19048336
    (**)10-7-11; St Paul MN Pioneer Press; CEO defends firing Rainbow Foods manager who was stabbed by customer; http://www.twincities.com/news/ci_19059394

    Nicholas P Heille
    3460 Garfield St NE
    Minneapolis MN 5541`8

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