Armored Car Driver Tentatively Settles Suit Over Alleged Retaliatory Firing

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - An armored car driver who sued his former employer, alleging he was required to drive the company's 15-ton trucks in unsafe mechanical condition and to partner with a 19-year-old who lacked the qualifications to work in such a capacity, reached a tentative settlement with the company.

Michael Abeyta maintained in his Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit filed in December 2018 that he was fired in 2017 by LA Federal Armored Inc. in retaliation for his complaints. Attorneys for LA Federal Armored filed court papers on Thursday with Judge Mark V. Mooney stating that the case settlement was “conditional,'' but no details or terms were divulged.

Lawyers for the company denied any wrongdoing on the part of their client.

Abeyta began working for the company in March 2013 and had generally positive reviews of his work, his suit stated. Among the noted agencies along his route were LA Federal Armored clients Metro, Orange County Transit Authority and Omnitrans, as well as private bus lines and trash hauling firms, according to the complaint.

Abeyta said he also worked part-time as a park ranger for the city of Montebello, and LA Federal Armored initially accommodated his schedule so he could continue his second job. After the company found out that Abeyta also had a background in auto mechanics, he agreed when asked to work on its vehicles, the suit stated.

In doing the mechanical work, Abeyta became aware that many of LA Federal Armored trucks often leaked oil and other fluids and had poor braking capability, the suit alleged. When Abeyta complained about the condition of the trucks he was assigned to repair and urged that they undergo maintenance, he was told by supervisors to “drive the trucks regardless of their mechanical condition,'' the suit alleged.

The brakes on a truck Abeyta was driving failed as he was driving down a mountain near Hemet, according to his court papers.

“Miraculously, plaintiff was able to stop the truck on the side of the road'' and waited eight hours for a tow truck to arrive and take the vehicle to the LA Federal Armored truck yard near downtown, the suit stated.

LA Federal Armored trucks weigh at least 15 tons and can cause “catastrophic damage to life and property in the absence of proper maintenance,'' the complaint stated.

Abeyta alleged that although state law requires armored truck guards to be at least 21 years old, he was partnered with a 19-year-old who wasqualified by his age to do no more than clean up at LA Armored headquarters and count money collected by properly licensed guards.

LA Federal Armored regularly employed other people who also were not licensed to carry firearms or drive commercial vehicles, the suit alleged.

“Plaintiff regularly complained to defendants about these dangerous working conditions that made him the potential target of armed thieves and violent attack,'' the suit stated.

Abeyta also maintained that he was given assignments in the last year that overlapped his park ranger work, causing him to lose esteem in the eyes of his supervisors there.

After Abeyta complained, he received his first-ever written discipline in January 2017 on false accusations of tardiness, the suit stated. He further alleged he was told three months later that his resignation had been accepted, even though he had never expressed a desire to quit.

LA Armored management told Abeyta that he had “abandoned his position'' by not showing up for work for three days in April 2017, according to the suit.

Copyright 2021, City News Service, Inc.

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