Woman says employer victimized her again after protective order

Indiana employers have no mandates in PO cases

INDIANAPOLIS - Whitney Walker almost didn't get a chance to tell her story when she was offered $5,000 to walk away and not talk about her ordeal.

Walker is one of thousands of people in Indiana who felt her life was in danger and counted on a protective order to keep someone away.

She hoped the paperwork would keep her safe on the job, but she eventually landed in the unemployment line and chose to step forward to share her story after she was forced out of her job.

After she filed a protective order against her former boyfriend, Kevin Singh, in November 2012, Walker moved out of her apartment.

At the time, Walker worked at the Nordstrom store at Keystone at the Crossing. Her bosses became aware of the situation after she often refused to take calls from Singh.

"They made me sign a contract that I would keep them aware of everything that was happening in the case and every time he contacted me, or I would be terminated," Walker said. "I wanted to keep my job. I signed it."

Walker said she provided regular updates and believes questions from human resources at times crossed a line.

"They wanted to know the history of our relationship. She asked me how intimate our relationship got," Walker said.

That type of questioning is not unusual in circumstances similar to these.

"The questions may seem intrusive, but they are targeting at making risk assessment," said Chris Schrader, a human resources expert who helps executives handle intricate issues, including protective orders. "I think it's best to tell the employer, especially if you expect them to participate in your protection to the extent they can."

In Indiana, rules on dealing with protective orders vary between workplaces. There are no state mandates.

The law allows businesses to request their own protective order to keep away anyone wishing to harm an employee.

"In Indiana, the employers hold all the cards when it comes to what they can and can't do in handling their employees," said attorney Amy DeBrota.

Nordstrom fired Walker in 2013 and offered her $5,000, under the condition that she could not sue the department store or talk about the deal.

When she decided to accept the settlement, Walker was told the offer was off the table. A Nordstrom spokesperson said Walker waited two months before she responded to their offer.

"I got online. I went to your website and contacted you. It didn't seem right," Walker told Call 6 Investigator Rafael Sanchez.

Walker also posted about her frustration with Nordstrom on Facebook.

The company sent the Call 6 Investigators a statement saying it helps workers in domestic issues "develop a safety plan."

In extreme cases, Nordstrom said it turns to "a national expert in workplace violence."

In Walker's case, Nordstrom said it believed her situation "posed an extreme safety risk" to "her co-workers, and our customers," calling the decision to fire her, "extremely difficult."

In June, Nordstrom decided to follow through with the $5,000 offer, which it said will "provide her with resources to help find a safer environment."

Read full response from Nordstrom

"The fact that they did that I think shows good faith on their part, and she's better off than most people," DeBrota said.

Walker said she would have preferred to have kept her job.

"I felt safe at work all the time," she said. "They took a really horrible time in my life and made it so much worse."

Walker hopes her story keeps others from being, in her words, victimized twice.

"You don't have to be a victim. You don't have to resign to that role," she said. "You don't have to let someone re-victimize you."

Employees are under no obligation to report a protective order, but HR experts suggest workers develop and discuss a safety plan with an employer.

There is no blueprint or mandate for how an employer handles this type of issue in Indiana. Every workplace can institute its own policies.

It is not common for this type of case to go public because many settlements require a privacy clause.

Follow Rafael Sanchez on Twitter: @rafaelontv  | Facebook: RafaelSanchezNews

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