LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A Hawthorne woman is suing Staples the Office Superstore, alleging she was forced to quit earlier this year because the Venice store where she worked was infested with rats, causing her nausea and headaches.
Ashley Carlyle's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations include wrongful termination, harassment, whistleblower retaliation, disability discrimination and violations of the state Labor Code. Carlyle seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Monday.
A Staples representative could not be immediately reached.
Carlyle was hired Oct. 26 as a retail associate at the store on Lincoln Boulevard and soon promoted to operations manager, overseeing office supplies, cashiering and truck loading, the suit states.
Carlyle quickly began having red spots on her ankles and the week after she was hired, a customer told her a rat had run under the shopping carts, the suit states. The next day the plaintiff saw a rat scoot across two aisles and into a hole in the wall, but when she reported it her manager said in response, ``It must have come from outside,'' the suit states.
Some of Carlye's associates told her rats had been a problem there for years and that the situation was getting worse, the suit states.
When Carlyle told several managers about rat droppings in the stock room, they said that traps were laid, but the plaintiff saw few of the larger rodents being caught, the suit states. She began feeling sick with nausea and headaches and one day almost vomited, the suit states.
When Carlyle complained about the smell of dead rats, she was told to ``move on to another aisle,'' according to the suit.
In December, a fed-up Carlyle contacted Cal/OSHA anonymously in order to protect her job, the suit states. She reported the rat problem and the agency responded that they would investigate, the suit states.
When Carlyle refused to clean up rat droppings in January because it was not part of her job, the store's general manager told her she should quit ``if this isn't the job for her,'' according to the suit.
When Carlyle protested that cleaning up rat feces could expose her to disease and that she had already been sick because of the rodents' presence, her manager told her, ``Well, if you are allergic you need to let us know, but other than that, you need to help us out.''
Carlyle was demoted to price auditor, allegedly because of her complaints, and she went on leave on Jan. 11, the suit states. Eight days later, she notified her general manager that she would not return because of the alleged rat infestation, the suit states.
A human resources representative confirmed Carlye's firing in a letter sent to her on Feb. 22, according to the suit.
Through the final days of Carlyle's employment, she would be covered in rat droppings when pulling items off the shelves, the suit alleges.
Carlyle has suffered emotional pain and a decline in her physical health because of the work conditions at Staples, the suit alleges.