A shop worker with autism was dismissed from his job following three incidents of being attacked by thieves outside his workplace over a span of four months.
Austin Sherrell, a resident of California, who has mild autism, was subjected to heckling, physical assault, and abuse by a group of thieves while employed at Vons grocery store.
The company terminated his employment, claiming a “pending investigation” as the reason, despite his father’s request for workers’ compensation after the unfortunate incidents.
Sherrell was attacked on three separate occasions, but he managed to defend himself during the third incident. The first assault occurred while he was taking out the trash, where two thieves suddenly appeared, punched him in the face, and sprayed him with pepper spray.
The initial incident took place on January 19. However, after just two months, he was targeted again in the same area.
Describing the first incident to KGET News via The Mirror, Sherrell said, “I was bleeding and managed to escape and run back inside. My biggest challenge is that I have mild autism, which makes it difficult for me to process things.”
Fortunately, during the second attack, he had a roll of trash bags tucked away in his apron pocket, which he used to protect himself when the assailant tried to stab him.
Speaking about the second incident, which deeply affected him, Sherrell said, “Unbelievable. The first incident didn’t shake me up too much, but the second incident, when you’re close to death, was the most frightened I’ve ever been in my entire life.”
On April 1, Sherrell faced another altercation when two customers informed him about harassment they were experiencing from an individual under the influence of substances. Taking prompt action, he immediately sought help from security to ensure the safety of the affected customers.
The man who was causing the disturbance chest bumped Sherrell and then punched him three times. His father, Adam, reported the incident to the company, stating that security did nothing to protect his son, even after he had informed them. Adam claimed that the guards overheard his son saying, “He’s cussing me out, he’s threatening my life.”
Sherrell explained the situation to security, stating, “I backed away, and he came back in my face. I backed away again,” after pushing the man away for the third time.
Following the near-stabbing incident, his father requested workers’ compensation from the company because his son was suffering from nightmares and panic attacks.
Workers’ compensation is a vital support system for employees who sustain work-related injuries. It allows them to take necessary time off and receive reimbursement for medical expenses. Furthermore, it serves as a safeguard, protecting employees from adverse consequences such as termination when they require a leave of absence.
However, Sherrell faced unexpected challenges upon his return to work. His working hours were reduced, and he was suspended from his job on April 10 due to a “pending investigation,” which ultimately led to his termination on April 19.
Following his sudden termination, Sherrell has been unable to find alternative employment, as confirmed by Adam.
The United Food and Commercial Workers 8-Golden State Union has appealed his termination. President Jacques Loveall stated, “Based on our initial findings, Mr. Sherrell’s termination was unjustified.”
Despite his decision not to return to Vons, Sherrell expressed his affection for the customers and how he would miss their presence.
He humbly acknowledged the frequent compliments he received from customers, often hearing positive remarks about his service.
To support Sherrell, his father initiated a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising $5,000. As of Friday morning (May 12), the campaign has received nearly $3,000 in donations.