Jdimytai Damour died from suffocation at a Long Island Wal-Mart in the early hours of November 28. The 34-year-old was a temporary worker, brought in to help field the rush of customers packed outside the door for post-Thanksgiving sales. At around 5:00 a.m., Damour opened the store doors to around 2,000 holiday shoppers.
The initial surge of frenzied bargain hunters knocked him off his feet and the continued pressure from the back of the crowd carried hundreds of people over him. Trampled and unable to breathe, Damour perished.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials ordered the retail giant to pay $7,000 in fines for what it deemed to be an occupational hazard, presenting a significant risk of employee injury. OSHA cited Wal-Mart for failing to provide employees with a safe area, failing to protect them from harm.
To date, Wal-Mart has spent more than one million dollars fighting the fine. Based on the response so far, that amount may just be the tip of the iceberg.
Wal-Mart has already taken steps to fix its crowd control problem, implementing new guidelines in New York State, initially, and recently across the country. The company also set aside $400,000 for customers injured that day and donated $1.5 million to Nassau County community programs.
The reasoning behind Wal-Mart’s siege of OSHA’s fine is a little hard for state and federal officials to nail down – especially since they have been willing to pay Nassau County, essentially taking responsibility for Damour’s death and customer injuries.
Wal-Mart’s lawyers have argued vigorously that OSHA is attempting to pull a fast one by defining “crowd trampling” as an occupational hazard and something employers should be liable to prevent.