Two men are suing Azusa-based Robbins Bros. Jewelry Inc., alleging they were taunted at work because they are Jehovah’s Witnesses and fired in 2020 for exposing financial wrongdoing by employees.
The Los Superior Court lawsuit brought by Thomas Villanueva and Hernando Quintero alleges wrongful termination and harassment, retaliation and discrimination based on religion. They seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Tuesday.
A Robbins Bros. representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Villanueva and Quintero were hired in 2000 and 2005, respectively. At the time of their firing, they ran the asset protection and loss prevention department, according to their court papers.
The men allege they were consistently harassed and discriminated against because of their faith starting in 2012. Although Robbins Bros. management knew they did not celebrate Christmas, the company repeatedly offered them Christmas bonuses that they could not accept and invited them to company Christmas celebrations, the plaintiffs allege.
In 2016, the company’s director of credit, billings and collections, said to a Jehovah’s Witness employee, “Did you throw your Jehovah’s Witness Bible at him?,” according to the suit.
On the way to a company dinner, the same director played Christmas music and teased Jehovah’s Witness employees about not being able to listen to those tunes, the suit states.
“She went out of her way to make it known to others that plaintiffs did not celebrate Christmas by pointing out that they were not allowed to listen to the music that she kept playing on her radio,” the suit alleges.
In April 2019, the plaintiffs found out that some employees were ringing up fake sales, enabling the workers to then delay charging back the phony transactions until after Robbins Bros. recorded that they met sales quotas, which provided them bonus commissions, the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs say they conducted an investigation in June 2019 and found a dozen employees who admitted knowing about or taking part in the alleged commission fraud, information which they reported to management.
In February 2020, Villanueva learned that employees of some Robbins Bros. stores were creating fake pay stubs for certain customers that falsely showed those customers having higher incomes than they actually had so they could be extended extra credit, the suit alleges. The plaintiffs allege those employees “were committing loan fraud in order to increase sales and earn higher commissions.”
The alleged fraud also benefited upper management by allowing them to achieve their sales goals, the suit states.
Villanueva reported the alleged financial fraud last March, and almost immediately, both plaintiffs were furloughed and were told it was because of the coronavirus pandemic, the suit states. Both men were then fired two months later, the suit states.
The plaintiffs have suffered lost income and career opportunities and continue to endure an adverse economic fallout, according to their court papers.
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