A Big 5 store in Glendale. Photo: Minnaert - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2820084
A Big 5 store in Glendale. Photo: Minnaert – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2820084

A former Big 5 Corp. employee is suing the sporting goods chain, alleging she was forced to resign out of concern for her safety after management released a shotgun to a buyer who she believed was a danger to both store workers and the public based on his conduct during several visits.

Delilah Rios alleges state Labor Code violations, wrongful termination and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She seeks unspecified damages in the complaint filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

A Big 5 representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

According to the lawsuit, Rios began working at Big 5 in 2005 as a part-time sales associate and eventually became a manager at the Downey store, where her duties included selling firearms. Rios is a licensed firearms instructor, the suit states.

A man came into the store the evening of Jan. 21, 2015, and said he wanted to buy a shotgun. Rios told him she could give him the required written gun safety test, but that she could not complete the sale because it was near closing time, according to her court papers.

The man took the test and passed, but later said he was in a hurry and walked out of the store, the suit says.

Two days later, the customer returned and chose a 12-gauge shotgun, but he grew agitated about having to fill out a federal form that records the gun transaction and later accused Rios of selling him the wrong gun, the suit alleges.

Rios says she offered to re-process the paperwork for another firearm, but the man “became irate and stormed out.”

Rios, concerned about the man’s behavior, updated other managers at the store and alerted them that he might return, according to the lawsuit.

The man came back the next day and arranged to buy another firearm with a different manager. State law required him to wait 10 days to take possession of the weapon, and he returned when Rios was on duty on Feb. 4, 2015, according to the complaint.

The man asked that the gun be released to him, but Rios told him that she needed to first give him a demonstration of how to use the firearm, the suit says. Because it was again near closing time, she asked him to come back the next morning.

The man became angry and cursed at Rios, telling her, “I paid for it and you need to give me my (epithet) gun,” according to her court papers.

Rios, shaken over the man’s conduct, says she found ammunition on the floor that was not sold at Big 5, leading her to believe the customer brought live ammunition into the store.

Rios says she called a manager in the Big 5 firearms department about the man and the ammunition she found, but rather than be alarmed, the manager told her that he would have another supervisor release the gun to the customer.

The man returned to the store two days after his last visit and again began cursing at the plaintiff, telling her, “People like you should not exist, I hope you get fired,” the suit states.

Rios later called the police and also made another call to the corporate firearms department, but a manager merely asked her why she couldn’t release the gun to the customer, the suit states.

Rios, distraught, said she could not in good conscience release the firearm to the man because of his behavior, according to her lawsuit.

“Plaintiff felt betrayed by the company she had been loyal to for many years,” the suit states. “She was frightened at the situation and felt that Big 5 was willing to endanger her safety and the safety of others just to make a gun sale.”

Another store manager later came into the store with his young child and, in the presence of police, released the shotgun to the customer along with a $25 Big 5 gift card, according to the lawsuit.

Rios resigned on Feb. 7, 2015, fearing for her safety and believing that money meant more to Big 5 than public and employee safety, according to her court papers.

–City News Service

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