In the moments before the Valley Stream Walmart opened on the day after Thanksgiving 2008, the crowd waiting outside for the Black Friday sale was so large and pressed so close to the doors, said the former store manager, that he was worried pieces of the building signage might fall from the vibrations.
Prakash Steve Sooknanan, the store manager at the time, said that he briefly considered not opening for the annual sale because of the frenzied crowd but "the amount of energy being applied to the building overrode" that thought, he said.
Sooknanan testified at an appeals hearing Monday in front of Judge Covette Rooney of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission in Manhattan. Walmart is fighting a $7,000 fine from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration after the death of Jdimytai Damour, a temporary worker who died after being trampled by customers surging into the store to get limited sale items.
When the doors were finally opened, in rushed "a violent flood of people," said Sooknanan, now a Walmart market manager for southern Connecticut.
OSHA inspectors and lawyers for the federal Department of Labor, which oversees OSHA, contend that Walmart should have foreseen the danger of the Black Friday sales after the Valley Stream store's front door was knocked off its guide rail by crowds at the 2007 Black Friday sales.
Walmart argues the OSHA fine is based on "a standard that was neither posted nor proposed at the time."
Two other former Valley Stream Walmart employees who worked during the 2008 Black Friday sale testified Monday that they did not receive specific training in crowd control.