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Labor attorney raises concerns about handling of complaint before murder at Colorado Springs Walgreens

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KRDO) -- A Colorado Springs labor attorney says the teen victim killed inside a Walgreens in June, did everything she was supposed to do when she previously reported her coworker to management for harassment.

"Riley did everything right, and the company did not,” said Ian Kalmanowitz, an attorney with Cornish & Dell'Olio.

On June 11, 2022, 17-year-old Riley Whitelaw was killed inside the break room at the Walgreens off of Centennial in Colorado Springs. A newly-released autopsy reveals she was stabbed 42 times.

Her alleged attacker, Joshua Johnson, was a coworker.

Court documents allege Whitelaw had told management Johnson made her uncomfortable at work and even asked to work a different schedule to avoid him. That request was not honored, as the two were working together the night she was killed.

"A young woman like Riley, who's at work with somebody who is creeping her out, was making unwanted advances at her, if her employer doesn't know about it, the employer can't do anything about it, so she has an obligation under the law to report that," said Kalmanowitz. "But once she does that, it's her employer's job -- it's their requirement -- to keep her safe.”

Kalmanowitz says Walgreens should have taken more steps to keep Whitelaw away from her alleged killer, including transferring Johnson to another store within the community.

“This is a situation where she's a high school student working with a bunch of adults," said Kalmanowitz. "I think there's an added responsibility there to ensure that the more vulnerable populations in the workforce are protected."

Unfortunately, situations of harassment are not unique.

Kalmanowitz says harassment in the workforce is very common and encourages victims to continue to speak up, even if they're being ignored.

"Go to your manager and report it," said Kalmanowitz. "If it's your manager who's harassing you or making you feel uncomfortable, go to a different manager and report it. Go to human resources. Go to the vice president and president of the company. Go report it, make yourself heard, and that will put the employer on notice that they have the obligation to fix this problem. If you go and you make these reports and complaints and no one takes it seriously, there are state and federal agencies that are tasked with handling complaints of employment discrimination like this. The Colorado Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both exist to investigate employment discrimination complaints like this."

Right now, that Walgreens location is still closed. KRDO has reached out to Walgreens Corporate to find out if it’s ever reopening.

Wednesday, Walgreens Corporate told KRDO the store will be re-opening "soon," however, officials weren't able to provide a specific date or time frame. The store is expected to open sometime this fall.

A GoFundMe has been set up to raise money for Whitelaw's family and to create a scholarship fund in her name. If you would like to donate, click here.

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Mallory Anderson


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