A produce clerk is suing Superior Grocers, alleging she was forced to quit in 2018 after management harassed and retaliated against her when she became pregnant and told her that breastfeeding was not allowed at work.
Maricela Sandoval Orozco seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in her Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit, which was filed Thursday and includes allegations of discrimination, hostile work environment, retaliation, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and failure to pay wages.
A Superior Grocers representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Orozco was hired in January 2017 as a produce clerk at the Florence-area store on Compton Avenue and the store manager, Andres Castellano, told her at the time she would be allowed to take about two days off a month to care for her cancer-stricken son, the suit states.
Orozco accepted the position, the suit states. Three months later, she found out she had been pregnant for a month, according to the complaint.
Orozco told Castellano that she had a risky pregnancy given her age and she asked to be exempt from lifting heavy items so as to avoid a miscarriage, the suit states. From then on, Castellano began to speak to Orozco in a condescending and dismissive manner and became more hostile toward her after each time she asked for help in lifting items, according to the suit.
“Orozco felt depressed and targeted as Castellano refused to engage with her about other options in accommodating her pregnancy,” the suit states.
Orozco felt compelled to put her pregnancy at risk with some assigned tasks, the suit states. In addition, Castellano demanded she continue working after eight hours were up until she finished all of her assigned jobs, the suit alleges.
Despite his promise when he hired Orozco, Castellano twice denied her request to take time off to take her son to a doctor’s appointment for cancer treatment, the suit alleges.
In October 2017, Castellano asked Orozco to help another employee set up a heavy Halloween promotional display, despite knowing she was seven months pregnant, the suit states. Orozco fainted because of the lifting and was taken to a hospital by ambulance, where a doctor placed her on a pregnancy disability leave, according to the suit.
Orozco returned in May 2018 and management immediately cut her hours and forced her to work nights, where her job included organizing the produce section and lifting 50-pound boxes, the suit states.
Orozco asked for accommodations to breastfeed from a store supervisor, who denied the request and said, ” We don’t do that here” and “If you don’t like it, you are free to quit and go home,” the suit states.
Orozco then asked Castellano to be allowed to breastfeed, but he replied that she could do so at work because it made her a “liability,” the suit states. He continued to require her to lift heavy boxes, the suit states.
In June 2018, wanting to avoid more harassment, retaliation, discrimination, and an environment where she was consistently pressured to quit, Orozco told Castellano she was resigning, according to the complaint.
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