ASHEBORO N.C. – A local woman was killed while working at a convenience store in Star, NC. Now, we are hearing from current and former employees of that chain of stores who say they have been bringing up worker safety concerns for months.
Laura Whitman was a graduate of Randleman High School. At 53-years-old she had worked at several local gas stations in Randolph County, but on the night of June 25th, 2022, Whitman was working at the Quik Chek in Star, NC.
Around an hour before closing, and on one of her first shifts at the location, Whitman was shot to death by a robbery suspect.
Chief David Kime with the Star Police Department told reporters that the suspect was the only other person in the store when he entered just after 10pm, and that after Whitman opened the cash drawer the suspect pulled out a .22 caliber handgun and shot Whiteman 3 times. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Following the death of Whitman, we reached out to a dozen current and former Quik Check employees. Half were only willing to speak with us off the record, and the other half agreed to allow us to share their concerns only if we agreed not to use their name. All the current employees said they feared reprisal by the new owners if they found out they had spoken with a reporter.
The new owners, Mountain Express Oil Co acquired the chain of Quik Chek stores in November of 2021. That acquisition included ten stores in Randolph County, one in Robbins, one in Biscoe, three in Troy, one in Star, and several other locations.
The Quik Chek in Star had recently changed its hours to close at 11pm, rather than its usual time of 9pm. Whiteman had been hired to help cover those extra hours. According to employees we spoke to, the change in hours was a part of a plan by the new owners to move to most or all the Quik Chek locations to 24 hours by extending the second shift and adding a third shift.
“That’s a problem,” said one employee. “Most 24-hour stores are located off of main roads or highways, most Quik Chek locations are on less busy roads, it makes working at night much more sketchy.”.
Since taking over employees say Mountain Express Oil Co hasn’t been shy about making changes. New suppliers, store renovations, new policies, but the one thing employees would like to see addressed, worker safety, has seen little change.
Every employee we asked about safety concerns said they had mentioned the issue to management but have seen no real action. One employee said the new owners had implemented new policies that made them less safe than before.
A photo of a written policy shared with us says employees of the store were no longer allowed to carry any type of weapon, including firearms, pepper-spray, tazers, stun guns, bats, or even a pocketknife. “They aren’t just not doing anything to make working here safer, they are making it less safe.”
Several employees described management’s attitude towards safety concerns as “dismissive”.
Earlier this week we reached out to Mountain Express Oil Co, to verify the information in this story and ask for comments about the safety concerns of their employees. As of the time of publishing this article, the company has not responded.