Documents show police have been called to Epic Theaters Oakleaf more than 30 times since 2021 for violent arguing, trespassing, assault, theft and vandalism.
JACKSONVILLE, Florida. Employees at Epic Theaters in Jacksonville say they fear for their safety after repeatedly interacting with customers, threatening or physically abusing staff.
First Coast News received footage of violence in the theater lobby on July 10. The video shows a client running with a broom and hitting an employee with it. The other guest then punches the staff member who tries to restrain them. Another client also spits on the employee.
According to the incident report, the suspect was a minor and received a fine for battery.
One of the concerned employees we spoke to shared the video but did not feel comfortable speaking in public. Attorney James Poindexter says employees have rights in this situation.
“They can file a complaint with OSHA and report it as a safety hazard. OSHA has investigators. Typically, they can visit the site and take photos, meet employees, meet management, collect evidence and if there is a violation of the law, then they can impose fines,” Poindexter said.
Records from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office show that police have been called to Epic Theaters Oakleaf more than 30 times since 2021 for violent disputes, intrusions, assaults, thefts, vandalism and noise complaints.
One employee says there are no security guards at the theater and most of the employees are teenagers or college students. Poindexter says that if it’s not in the job description, employees shouldn’t take on that responsibility.
“Is the employer being negligent due to lack of security? In situations where there is a documented pattern of criminal behavior or violent behavior and the employer is made aware of it, OSHA can come in and say, “Look, this is a recognized hazard.” You need to take steps to fix this and issue citations and other corrective actions to make sure this happens,” Poindexter said.
According to an email we received, employees were injured in the incident on Monday, but because the theater is understaffed, they are unable to take time off to recover.
“Employees who are injured on the job are protected. They can file workers’ compensation claims. There are statutory protections for individuals who file workers’ compensation claims that they cannot retaliate against,” Poindexter said.
Employees say the incidents have been reported to the company, but nothing has changed, and they are dissatisfied with pay or management. First Coast News contacted both the Epic Theaters corporate office and the regional manager, but had not received a response as of Thursday evening.
“The time to report workplace safety issues is when an employee feels these conditions are not safe in any situation. For any employee who is thinking about reporting this, it is important to go and talk to an attorney who can give you advice. about how to do it right,” Poindexter said.