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Woman accused of killing Publix coworker in rare company

TARPON SPRINGS — If, as authorities charge, Arunya Rouch shot a colleague to death March 30 at the Tarpon Springs Publix, she represents a rare class of criminal: women who kill in the workplace.

Rouch would be part of an "infinitesimal" group of women who have killed people in workplace disputes, said Carter Hay, an associate professor of criminology at Florida State University.

Only 5 percent of workplace homicides are committed by women, said Larry Barton, the author of four books on crisis management and violence at work who teaches at the FBI Academy.

"We have fewer women who cross that line because they are willing to tolerate it (a perceived negative work environment) more," Barton said. "When a woman crosses a line and takes a weapon and uses it, it's a very significant event in the study of workplace violence because we just do not see a lot of it."

James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston who has studied workplace violence extensively, said women generally turn to violence "if all else fails.''

Men, on the other hand, see violence as an offensive weapon "to show who's boss, to take charge," Fox said.

And that, in part, has to do with gender differences in coping with stress, Hay said.

Women tend to internalize strain, which can result in depression or harming themselves. Men are more likely to externalize their responses to stress, which can include aggression against other people, Hay said.

Fox said women are less likely to attach their identity to their employment and are often better at balancing work, family and social obligations.

"If a guy loses his job, he often feels like he's lost everything," Fox said. "Women don't view their self-worth through their employment. They can, but it's much less common."

• • •

Rouch does not precisely conform to the gender stereotype. She has no children and was heavily involved with her job, where she was known as an unrelenting perfectionist. Rouch was a trainer called upon by Publix management to open seafood departments in new stores.

She arrived at the Publix in Tarpon Springs about three years ago. Within months, Rouch began complaining that co-workers were taunting her about her meticulous approach to the job, according to her friends and family. She was told to "go back and get into her hole" and called "anal.'' One of those co-workers, they said, was Gregory Janowski, 40, whom Rouch is accused of killing. His family vehemently denies that he taunted or bullied Rouch.

"It's not that they (victims of such abuse) snap," said Gary Namie, a psychologist and co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. "It's the slow, dripping, constant exposure to the stress, humiliation, forms of intimidation that could drive a person to take action."

On March 27, Janowski reported Rouch for violating Publix's policy of working at the store before punching in. She in turn threatened him. Janowski reported the threat, according to authorities.

Rouch was fired three days later. Around noon that same day, authorities say, Rouch shot and killed Janowski as he sat in his car in the parking lot. Still armed, she entered the store, where she was shot and wounded by a Tarpon Springs police detective. She remains hospitalized at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg.

Family and friends said Rouch, 41, loved her job. "She would cook up food and bring it to co-workers for lunch," said Kenneth Rouch, her father-in-law. He said she takes great pride in her work and her family. He links the shooting to her love of both.

"It's the craziest thing," Kenneth Rouch said. "But I believe she didn't want to disgrace the family."

• • •

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of workplace homicides decreased by a little more than half from 1994, when there were 1,080, to 2008, when there were 517. That's because the vast majority are committed during other crimes, such as robbery, and the overall violent crime rate has decreased.

Workplace bullying, on the other hand, is neither rare nor declining.

More than a third of the U.S. work force report being bullied on the job, according to a 2007 survey conducted by Zogby International and the Workplace Bullying Institute. Another 12 percent say they've witnessed it.

While research into workplace bullying is fairly new, experts draw a direct parallel between bullying and workplace violence.

"People don't have an escape route any more," said Namie, the co-founder of the Workplace Bullying Institute. "With the job market, they stay in miserable situations for health insurance."

• • •

Only a handful of women have made national news in the slaying of co-workers or supervisors.

Most recently, a female professor at the University of Alabama at Huntsville was charged with killing three people and wounding three in an on-campus shooting rampage in February. Amy Bishop had recently been denied tenure. After the shooting, colleagues reported that Bishop had long exhibited strange behavior.

Nearly all of the other women involved in high-profile homicides had a history of mental illness. That doesn't seem to be the case with Rouch.

In January 2006, a former employee of a U.S. Postal Service mail-sorting plant in Goleta, Calif., opened fire on her former colleagues, killing six before turning the gun on herself. Jennifer San Marco had been granted early retirement because of psychological problems.

In April 1997, two nursing home administrators in Louis­ville, Ky., were shot to death by Kimberly Harris, a former employee who reportedly had a history of mental illness. She was sentenced to life in prison.

Times researchers Shirl Kennedy and Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.

Year Number of workplace homicides
1994 1,080
1995 1,036
1996 927
1997 860
1998 714
1999 651
2000 677
2001 643
2002 609
2003 632
2004 559
2005 567
2006 540
2007 628
2008 517
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Woman accused of killing Publix coworker in rare company 04/11/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 3, 2014 2:53pm]
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