A former longtime Costco Wholesale Corp. employee is suing the membership store chain, alleging she was forced to quit in 2019 after she was wrongfully denied available jobs for which she applied after being injured on duty.
The allegations in Monica Barnett’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit include wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination. The complaint filed Thursday does not state the location of the Costco where Barnett worked. She seeks unspecified damages.
A Costco representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Barnett was hired in July 1991 as a packer and during the next 28 years was loyal and performed her job well, the suit states. She rose to various positions with Costco, including some in management, the suit states.
Barnett hurt her knees and a wrist on the job in November 2017 and was given work restrictions, the suit states. She also was put on a workers compensation disability leave of absence, then released to go back to work in August 2018 with restrictions, the suit states.
That same month, before Barnett could return to work, management said it could not accommodate Barnett in the position she had as a stocker and cashier prior to her leave because each task allegedly had the potential to violate her work restrictions, according to the suit.
Barnett’s suggestions as to ways to accommodate her were ignored, and Costco also did not offer her any positions at any other stores, the suit states.
Barnett allegedly asked in January 2019 if she could return to work on a trial basis with lightened restrictions, but the warehouse manager said she could only come back if she no longer had any work restrictions.
While Barnett remained on a leave of absence, Costco sent her postings for all available positions at or below her job classification at her location as well as four other stores where she said she would work, the suit states. However, she was not told how the open positions could be modified to accommodate her work restrictions, the suit states.
Last May, Costco management said it was still unable to accommodate Barnett in her cashier and stocker job for fear of violating her workplace restrictions, according to the suit.
“Costco also claimed it did not have any job openings at all at her then location that were vacant to offer her,” the suit states.
That same month, Costco offered Barnett the choice of resigning or be fired and sent a resignation form.
Barnett sent an email to the Costco regional manager protesting what she believed was discrimination, the failure to accommodate and that management was “trying to force her out,” the suit states. She also alleged she was being targeted for retaliation for having made a workers compensation claim, according to the suit.
The union representing Costco workers sent Barnett at least two job postings that had not previously been communicated to her, the suit states. When Barnett confronted the regional manager about the postings, he denied knowing about them and said “You shouldn’t have been sent these,” the suit states.
Barnett eventually accepted and trained for a non-union job out of fear she could be fired, but decided to resign last September, the suit states.
Costco later sent Barnett a letter asking her to reconsider her decision, but failed to offer her one of the other open positions in which she had expressed interest, all of which were union positions and within her area of experience, the suit states.