Inside the Death of a 38-Year-Old Walmart Worker

Janikka Perry was allegedly told to pull it together, suffered fatal heart attack at work
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2024 1:45 PM CST
Did Walmart's Work Culture Turn Fatal for 38-Year-Old?
In this May 16, 2011 file photo, the Walmart logo is displayed on a store in Springfield, Ill.   (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, file)

On January 16, 2022, Janikka Perry started to feel faint during her shift at a Walmart bakery in Arkansas. The 38-year-old, who rarely missed a shift or left work early despite having heart problems and diabetes, told management she felt unwell, but was told she needed to continue working because they were short-staffed that day. Toward the end of her shift, she visited the restroom twice in two hours to rest. The second time, she was in a stall for nearly an hour and a half before calling 911 and telling a dispatcher, through coughs, that she was struggling to breathe. Emergency responders found her there unconscious nine minutes later; she was rushed to a hospital, where she was found to have suffered a heart attack. She did not survive. The New Republic looks at her death and the culture surrounding it among Walmart workers in an extensive piece.

That culture is one in which, per the New Republic and the sources it spoke to, workers are expected to work through ailments and are penalized for missing work—even if the missed shifts are due to sickness or family needs. "If you're not throwing up or passing out, they want you to stay," one of Perry's former co-workers says. Another says doctor's notes were not accepted by management. "You can go to Walmart right now; I bet you somebody is sick working in there because they are scared to lose their jobs," says a third former associate. In addition, Perry's death seems to have been "disappeared"; it's not listed in federal workplace fatality data or OSHA records, the store refused to give her sisters information about her final hours, and former co-workers seemed scared to talk about her to the news outlet. Read the full piece, which has more disturbing anecdotes from associates, here. (More Longform stories.)

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