Los Angeles Superior Court
Los Angeles County Superior Court. My News LA.com photo by John Schreiber.

After initially insisting that his lawsuit be decided by a jury, a former Superior Grocers store assistant manager has agreed to arbitration of his claim that he was wrongfully fired in 2021 for “caking” two female employees during a birthday festivity.

Lawyers for plaintiff Ronald Parada and the grocery store chain filed court papers on Thursday with Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Richard L. Fruin confirming the arbitration agreement. The judge had originally scheduled a hearing Friday to hear testimony regarding the plaintiff’s claims that the signature on his arbitration agreement was forged.

The judge scheduled a status conference for Jan. 18.

Parada’s suit alleges wrongful discharge, retaliation, failure to prevent retaliation and a violation of the California Family Rights Act protecting family leave. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

According to the Superior Grocers’ attorneys’ court papers, Parada was given a copy of the company’s arbitration agreement when he was given his paycheck in December 2019. The arbitration agreement specifically provided that the parties agreed that any disputes arising out of his employment would be resolved in binding arbitration, according to the Superior Grocers’ attorneys’ court papers.

In a sworn declaration, Parada denied he was bound by an arbitration agreement.

“The signature next to my name on the payroll check pick-up register is not my signature or handwriting,” Parada says.

Parada was hired in 2012 as an assistant store director and later advanced to the positions of co-director and in November 2016 to store director, according to the suit filed Dec. 1.

“Throughout plaintiff’s employment with defendants, on birthdays and other celebrations, the employees celebrated by having cake and the person being celebrated would be `caked,’ i.e., lightly hit in the face with some cake or whipped cream,” according to the suit.

While working for the Santa Fe Springs-based company, Parada complained about alleged excessive work hours for managers and reported various state Labor Code violations to management involving, among other things, paid time off and the alleged keeping of incorrect time records, the suit states.

Parada complained to supervisors in early 2020 that the company’s time-keeping software was inaccurate and that employees were not receiving sick pay, according to the suit.

Parada went on medical leave in May 2020 after being injured when the car he was driving was hit from behind by a drunken driver, the suit states. Three months later, he requested medical and bereavement leave after his father died, according to the suit.

In mid-February of 2021, Parada took medical leave again after his mother became ill, the suit states. Less than two weeks later, Parada was fired and was told the reason was his having “caked” the two female workers, the suit states.

After Parada’s firing, the “caking” tradition continued at the store, the suit states. He believes the store’s explanation for his termination was a pretext for his protests about his work hours, reporting management’s alleged Labor Code violations and for requesting family leave, the suit states.

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