A former employee for a company that produces prefabricated homes is suing the company, alleging he was fired in retaliation for removing a tracking device placed in a tool case that allowed his boss to keep tabs on his whereabouts on and off duty.
Octavio Reynoso’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Connect Homes, located in downtown Los Angeles, alleges wrongful termination, invasion of privacy, common law intrusion into private affairs or matters and unfair business practices. He seeks unspecified damages in the suit filed Friday.
A Connect Homes representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Reynoso began working for Connect Homes last June and his duties included installing drywall and performing roofing, electrical and plumbing tasks at construction sites, the suit states. His supervisor ordered Reynoso to report to specific jobs throughout Southern California, the suit states.
The company paid for Reynoso’s hotel lodgings during lengthy projects far from his home, the suit states. Management decided when Reynoso could take breaks and where he would work, and he used a cellphone app to clock-in and clock-out, the suit states.
The cellphone app enabled the company to verify that he was at his scheduled job, the suit states.
By last August Reynoso had worked on six Connect projects and received a positive job evaluation, the suit states. However, in January of this year, “things took a turn for the worse” when his boss gave Reynoso a case containing several tools even though the plaintiff typically used his own tools and he had limited room in his truck, the suit states.
Reynoso grew suspicious when management demanded he return the case at the end of each work week, the suit states. But the plaintiff “felt afraid to initiate a detailed conversation about the case” with his supervisor because of the boss’ “history of angry outbursts” and because Reynoso valued his job, the suit states.
In early February, Reynoso’s boss ordered him to report to a job in Culver City and ordered him to keep the case in his truck, the suit states.
On the first night of the job, Reynoso drove in his personal truck to the hotel where he stayed and brought the case up to his room, where he opened it and noticed it had “a discreet cavity filled with packing foam,” the suit states.
Reynoso pulled out some of the foam and found a small rectangular device about the size of a flip phone with the letters “GPS,” the suit states. The device had small glowing lights indicating it was turned-on and on the back of it was the logo, “Spytec,” the suit states.
“Mr. Reynoso felt shocked,” the suit states. “He realized that for the past three weeks, (his boss) had been monitoring Mr. Reynoso’s whereabouts, including during evenings when Mr. Reynoso was not working.”
The device allowed Reynoso’s supervisor to know where he went on his free time and how long he stayed at non-work related places, including his relatives’ homes, the suit alleges.
Reynoso feared that discussing the device with his boss would anger him, remembering how many times the supervisor lost his temper and yelled at him and his co-workers, the suit states.
“Mr. Reynoso felt desperate, so he soon after placed the (device) in a cabinet at the jobsite so that (his boss) could not track,” the suit states, but the next day Reynoso saw that it was removed from the cabinet, the suit states.
In February, Reynoso’s boss met with him and another worker to discuss their next job, the suit states. During the entire conversation, Reynoso felt “on edge” and at the end he stared at the plaintiff and said, “I like to have all of my tools tracked. I like to know where they are at all times,” the suit states.
Reynoso interpreted the boss’ use of the term “tools” mean his employees, the suit states.
About a week later, Reynoso felt so stressed and concerned about possible further surveillance that he believed he had no choice other than to quit, according to the suit.
Reynoso gave the company two weeks notice of his intention to quit, but before that period ended he and other members of his construction team were fired, the suit states.
Reynoso believes that because other employees not on his team kept their jobs, his firing was in retaliation for having removed the monitoring device from the case, the suit states.
Reynoso found a similar construction job about a month later, but it pays him a lower hourly rate and does not pay him a daily rate as Connect had, the suit states.
“As a result, Mr. Reynoso has struggled to support himself and his family,” according to the suit.
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