Worker Alleges Coronavirus Used as Pretext for Wrongful Layoff

Hand And Gavel.

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A longtime shipping department worker for a Panorama City apparel maker is suing his former employer, alleging the coronavirus pandemic was used by management to justify his layoff earlier this year when the real reason was his age and disability.

Jaime Valdez's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Jerry Leigh of California Inc. alleges wrongful termination, age and disability discrimination and retaliation. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Tuesday.

A company representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

Valdez was hired in the late 1970s and worked in the shipping department during the final years of his employment, helping to load pallets, according to his court papers, which say he also moved containers around the company yard and made deliveries to customers.

Valdez was working full-time at the start of the year, but in March, the company furloughed him because of the pandemic, the suit states. Valdez and other employees returned in late June, about the time he hurt his back and became disabled, according to the complaint.

Valdez asked to be sent to a doctor to inquire about treatment and getting work accommodations, but his boss ignored his request, the suit alleges. The plaintiff alleges the company ``continued to overwork'' him in the hope that he would become frustrated and quit.

Valdez was told to go home July 8 because there was no work for him, his suit states. He was later told he was being laid off, effective July 31, because of a slowdown due to the coronavirus, but when he lost his job, the company was busy with work, according to the suit.

Valdez believes he was laid off because of his disability and his age, which was nearly 65 at the time, making him the oldest shipping department employee and the eldest driver, the suit states.

Another older employee was also laid off, but all of the younger employees in shipping and who were drivers were retained, the suit says.

Company founder Jerry Leigh, who died in 2017 at age 94, started his namesake firm in the early 1960s.

Photo: Getty Images

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