A man who worked as a welder at a Montebello company is suing his former employer, alleging management used the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse to lay him off earlier this year in retaliation for accommodations he sought after being injured on the job.
Erik Finkbeiner’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Troy Products alleges wrongful termination, disability discrimination and retaliation. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Friday.
A representative for Troy Products could not be immediately reached for comment.
Finkbeiner was hired at the Vail Avenue company in May 2017 and his duties included welding and fabricating accessories for the military, emergency personnel and border patrol vehicles, the suit states.
Finkbeiner says he worked well with management, but things changed after he cut his left thumb while using a grinder in November 2019. He had complained that other employees had removed safety guards and handles from the grinders and had asked that they be restored before his injury, but his requests were ignored, the suit alleges.
Finkbeiner went on medical leave and was scheduled to return in December 2019 and hoped to do so with some work restrictions, but management told him he had to be 100% cleared for work and so he did not come back until January, according to his court papers. When he returned, he was assigned difficult tasks and complained they hurt his hand, but management did nothing, the suit alleges.
After the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, Finkbeiner says he told management that his mother worked in a hospital where a patient died, but that her job was in a lab and she had not been in the area where the patient died. However, Finkbeiner was forced to stay home and use his vacation and sick leave even though he and his mother had no COVID-19 symptoms, the suit alleges.
At one point, Finkbeiner received an errant condolence call from a co-worker after false rumors spread that the plaintiff’s mother had died of the virus, the suit states.
Management ignored Finkbeiner’s requests to return to work and he was fired March 24 after being told work had slowed due to the coronavirus, even though he was previously told no one would be laid off because of the pandemic, the suit states. The company website states that Troy Products is an “essential service,” the suit says.
Finkbeiner maintains he was actually laid off for being hurt on the job, for asking for accommodations for his injury and for complaining about job safety.
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