Charles “C.J.” Giampaolo, a survivor of the 2017 Route 91 Harvest Music Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas, has filed a lawsuit against his employer, alleging he was told to “suck it up” after revealing to his boss that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
According to court documents filed in the State of Connecticut Superior Court, the Torrington, Connecticut resident says he was belittled, demoted and had his commission cut while working at the Elevator Service Company, Inc., (ESCO) in Torrington. The lawsuit claims ESCO discriminated against Giampaolo “in the terms, conditions and privileges of his employment based on his disability,” and is seeking unspecified damages.
Here’s what you need to know about Giampaolo’s lawsuit.
1. Giampaolo’s Father-in-Law Was Killed and Two Other Family Members Were Injured in the Shooting
In his lawsuit, Giampaolo describes a horrific scene of events in which he, his wife Jessica, her parents, aunt, and cousins were all on the Las Vegas Strip enjoying the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on October 1, 2017, until gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Resort. The crime was the worst shooting incident in U.S. history.
Giampaolo’s father-in-law, Kurt Von Tillow, was fatally shot during the massacre, which took the lives 57 other concert-goers and injured approximately 900 more. Giampaolo quickly used his body as a human shield to protect his family during the shooting. Giampaolo’s discovered his wife’s aunt and one of her cousins was also shot but neither had life-threatening injuries.
With three wounded family members, Giampaolo and his wife used a phone charger and belt to try and staunch the bleeding, quickly moved the wounded to a safer spot under some bleachers, and “cowered underneath until the shooting finally stopped.” After a 10-month investigation, the FBI was unable to determine Paddock’s reason for the shooting.
2. Giampaolo Informed his Employers he Suffered From PTSD
Giampaolo returned to work three weeks after the shooting, but according to court documents, started experiencing what he described as “panic attacks, claustrophobia, sleeplessness and anxiety.” After seeing a therapist, Giampaolo was diagnosed with PTSD.
Giampaolo noticed a change in how he was treated at ESCO after he attended a crowded work-related function with hundreds of guests, loud music and strobe lights. He recalls that “his palms sweated, his heart rate escalated, and he felt as if the wall were closing in.” Giampaolo says the event was fun and exciting for everyone else but terrifying for him. Giampaolo told his employers, Steven and Linda Roth, that he was having a panic attack, and then he “ran for the door.”
3. Giampaolo Once Viewed his Boss as a “Father Figure”
Hired by ESCO in 2015 to execute elevator maintenance and repair contracts, Giampaolo quickly moved up the ranks. He was promoted to Account Executive within six months and became ESCO’s Sales Manager by March 2017. His duties were extensive and included sales as well as recruiting, hiring and managing team members. The lawsuit contends that Giampaolo’s stellar salesmanship and team management resulted in the company’s 30% revenue increase.
Giampaolo described his relationship with the Roths prior the shooting as being “akin to that of a family member,” and said he viewed Steven Roth as a “father figure,” revealing plans to devote the rest of his career to working for their company.
4. Management Told him he Had a “Bad Attitude” and “Entitled Vibe”
Although Giampaolo grappled with PTSD after the shooting, legal documents claim “he did not miss a beat at work,” and continued to effectively lead his team and boost ESCO’s profits. But after notifying ESCO’s management that he suffered from PTSD, Giampaolo felt that his treatment at the company continued to deteriorate. According to Giampaolo, Steven and Linda Roth criticized him for having a “bad attitude” and supervisors and colleagues alike treated him like “damaged goods.”
Giampaolo maintains that even though he had informed management and colleagues that he needed to attend regular therapy sessions after the shooting, and scheduled his appointments as late in the day as possible, they would “roll their eyes and comment: ‘You are leaving already?’” the lawsuit also mentions that Samantha Waldt, ESCO’s Customer Service Manager and Roth’s daughter, sent a text message to a mutual friend several weeks after the the business event, saying that Giampaolo was “walking around with an entitled vibe/God complex.”
5. Giampaolo Claims his Boss Accused him of Having a “Personality Disorder””
On April 10, 2018, Giampaolo met with Steve Roth, wanting an explanation for having his commission slashed a second time. On the following day, Giampaolo also met with ESCO’s other owners Linda Roth and Paul Farnsworth and claims he was berated for his “terrible attitude” and “lack of focus.” Court documents state that during the tense meeting, Linda Roth “bragged” about coming into work while being treated for cancer, told him she “sucked it up,” and he should do the same. It was during this meeting that Giampaolo left his job at ESCO. Court papers indicate his PTSD symptoms worsened after his departure and that he experienced “heightened anxiety, increased hyper-arousal and insomnia.”
Since leaving ESCO Giampaolo has found another job in sales and continues to seek treatment for PTSD. “It has been very up and down for Charles,” Giampaolo’s attorney Amanda DeMatteis was quoted as saying to the Connecticut Law Tribune. “He has been through unimaginable carnage in Las Vegas and tried to come back and find that sense of normalcy in his life, only to have it taken from him. It was traumatic in a different way, but it was still traumatic.”