A former fabric cutter at Los Angeles Apparel Inc. is suing his former employer, alleging he was fired in 2020 in retaliation for quarantining after suffering coronavirus symptoms and requesting sick leave pay.
Jose Portillo’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit also names Los Angeles Apparel CEO Dov Charney as a defendant. The suit’s allegations include wrongful termination and retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, disability discrimimination, failure to prevent discrimination and multiple state Labor Code violations.
“Los Angeles Apparel, Inc.’s outrageous conduct towards its employees endangered the health of not only its employees, but also the general public,” according to Portillo’s suit.
Portillo seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Wednesday. A Los Angeles Apparel representative could not be immediately reached.
Portillo was hired in 2016 and was employed at Los Angeles Apparel in June 2020 when it was the site of one of the largest COVID-19 hotspots during the pandemic, according to the suit. Prior to last July 7, based on an incomplete list of employees, Los Angeles Apparel had more than 300 confirmed cases of confirmed COVID-19 infections among its workers, resulting in three worker deaths in June 2020 and an additional worker’s death in early July 2020, according to the suit.
Los Angeles Apparel was required to disclose an outbreak if three or more infections were identified during a span of 14 days, the suit states. However, despite having more than 100 times the number of infections that should have triggered a report to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the company failed to notify the agency and “deceived its employees regarding the presence of the massive outbreak,” the suit alleges.
Health workers ultimately inspected the facility and observed “numerous violations of distancing requirements and infection controls,” the suit states. The DPH directed the firm to close, but the company later reopened “in knowing violation of that order,” the suit alleges.
Portillo, who was experiencing “symptoms of poor health” last July, obeyed a DPH order to stay home, putting him at odds with Los Angeles Apparel managers who told him to report, the suit states. He also asked for sick leave pay, the suit states.
The company then retaliated against Portillo, the suit alleges.
“Defendants informed plaintiff that his position was eliminated and that he was terminated,” the suit states.
Portillo believes Los Angeles Apparel fired him as a direct result of his efforts to comply with state and local laws ordering the quarantine of people with COVID-19 symptoms, the suit states. He also believes the company intended to inflict emotional distress upon him, according to the suit.