Woman Alleges She Was Fired for Complaining About Illegal Waste Dumping

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former manager for 99 Cent Only Stores LLC is suing the discount store chain, alleging she was chastised for buying protective equipment for employees during the coronavirus, discriminated against for getting pregnant and fired in 2020 for complaining about illegal hazardous waste dumping.

Desire Ramirez's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations include wrongful termination, discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and various state labor code violations. She seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Friday.

A 99 Cent Only Store representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

Ramirez was hired in May 2008 as a cashier and worked her way up to a store manager, the suit states. Throughout her employment, she was not allowed take all her meal and rest breaks and was often required to work off the clock, the suit alleges.

Ramirez was told by her district manager, Michael Rivera, to illegally dispose of hazardous chemicals in the store toilet to keep costs down despite her complaints about the danger to employees and customers, the suit states.

In December 2018, as many as 10 to 15 homeless people regularly came into the Pomona store on Arrow Highway where Ramirez worked and about 150 homeless people lived in the parking lot, according to the suit. Gang members also began appearing in the store and parking lot as well and one of them threatened an employee while robbing the store, the suit alleges.

Another worker allegedly was stabbed. The security staff was poorly trained and of little help and instead of protecting workers, they began sexually harassing female customers and employees, according to the suit.

Ramirez told Rivera in early 2019 that she was having a high-risk pregnancy, but he "took a deep breath, rolled his eyes and walked away," the suit states.

After Ramirez gave Rivera a doctor's note stating she could not work more than 40 hours a week because of her pregnancy, Rivera reacted by demoting her to manage at several stores instead of just one, the suit states.

A produce bin fire in June 2019 released hazardous chemicals fumes and the pregnant Ramirez was left gasping for air, vomiting and coughing, the suit states. Rivera later reprimanded her for the explosion and sent her back to work, according to the suit.

From September 2019 to February 2020, Ramirez took a maternity and baby bonding leave, the suit states.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, employees stopped showing up in fear of the pandemic, so Ramirez purchased gloves and masks for her employees because the company did not provide them, the suit states. But Rivera reprimanded Ramirez for doing so, according to the suit.

Last April, Ramirez was abruptly sent home by human resources for an alleged breach of confidentiality and she received a letter May 4 stating she was being fired after 12 years of service, the suit states.

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