A former Wells Fargo employee who worked at a branch in Compton is suing the financial institution, alleging he was laid off in May for complaining about management’s allegedly lax coronavirus health precautions and because he asked for accommodations for an on-the-job injury.
Christian Munoz’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation, failure to prevent discrimination, harassment and retaliation and failure to provide reasonable accommodations and engage in the interactive process. Munoz seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Monday.
“We are reviewing the allegations,” a Wells Fargo spokeswoman said Wednesday. “We are committed to providing an accommodating and safe workplace, which has included various COVID-19 safety measures in our branches throughout the pandemic.”
Munoz was hired as a teller in August 2005 and in October 2013 was promoted to a personal banker assisting customers in opening and managing accounts, the suit states.
In early June 2020, many employees at the branch on Rosecrans Avenue fell ill with the coronavirus, but management did not give proper notice to employees as required by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and other public health agencies, nor did it take subsequent safety measures for the employees who continued working, the suit alleges.
Munoz believed that based on CDC guidelines and local health rules, the branch should have been closed after an employee reported testing positive for COVID-19 and potentially exposing co-workers, the suit states. He and other co-workers worried as more colleagues became sick, but management did not take steps to curb the possibility of employee infections, according to the suit.
“Mr. Munoz voiced his concerns to his immediate managers and supervisors to no avail,” the suit states.
However, in mid-June 2020 a manager hosted an employee conference call to address the various concerns, the suit states. Munoz and a colleague were “very outspoken about the various failures of (management) in not following the CDC and the (Los Angeles County) Health Department’s guidance on health and safety measures to protect the public and employees,” the suit states.
However, management allegedly continued to ignore Munoz and the other employees’ concerns and more employees became infected.
Munoz and a colleague filed complaints with the CDC, Cal/OSHA and the Department of Public Health and the branch was closed for two months, the suit states. Munoz returned to work there in October 2020, hoping the workplace would be free of retaliation for his having complained about the coronavirus health protocol, the suit states.
In December 2020, Munoz hurt his wrists while back on the job and he asked for work accommodations, including a desk and chair that would enable him to do his work without further injury, but his request was not addressed, the suit alleges.
Munoz made additional accommodation requests in January and February and finally obtained a limited number of work restrictions after following management orders that he first open a workers’ compensation claim, the suit states.
Munoz and a co-worker were told in March that they were being laid off as of May 23, the suit states. The two were the most senior and oldest personal at the branch and both had work disabilities, according to the suit.
Another branch employee who also was vocal about the alleged lack of sufficient coronavirus safety precautions was fired in December, the suit states.