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