A former Lowe’s Home Centers LLC employee is suing the home improvement store chain, alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2020 because he complained that management at the Industry store disregarded his complaints that a customer repeatedly entered the location and threatened him and his family.
Daniel Ochoa’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination and retaliation. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit brought Thursday.
A Lowe’s representative could not be immediately reached.
Ochoa was hired at the Industry store on Castleton Street near the Puente Hills Mall as a customer service associate in January 2015, the suit states. The first incident occurred when the customer entered the store in January 2019 and told Ochoa, “I will kill you and your parents,” the suit states.
Other Lowe’s employees were also threatened by the man during the this same visit, the suit states.
Ochoa asked a fellow worker to report the threats while he escorted the man out of the store, according to the suit.
The same man returned to Lowe’s in March 2019 and told Ochoa that he would kill his family, the suit states. Ochoa also overheard the man tell a colleague that he would “kill if (he) could get away with it,” the suit states.
The man returned again the next month and “discussed members of Mr. Ochoa’s family after telling Mr. Ochoa that the Lowe’s cashiers were pretty,” the suit states.
Ochoa began to suspect that his colleagues had not reported the man’s initial threat because the individual continued to come back, the suit states.
“Mr. Ochoa became worried about the potential for an escalation in threats or, worse, actual violence,” according to the suit.
After finding out that his co-worker had indeed not reported the original January 2019 incident to management, Ochoa himself did so, the suit states. Two managers told him he could document the incident with a handwritten complaint, the suit states.
Ochoa wrote down the details and turned in his account, but his request for a copy was denied by one of the managers, the suit states.
The man who allegedly threatened Ochoa continued to enter the store and once pointed a knife at Ochoa and told him he would use it, the suit states. Meanwhile, one of the managers told Ochoa that she was awaiting word from corporate management about what to do about the man, the suit states.
When Ochoa went to the store on a day off in January 2020 to pick up a copy of an email he had sent documenting the customer’s threats and to follow up on the issue, a supervisor from a neighboring department accused him of working off the clock, the suit states.
“Mr. Ochoa explained that he was there to retrieve the email copy of his documentation of the threats that he had reported,” the suit states. “Mr. Ochoa also expressed to (the supervisor) that he was frustrated that Lowe’s had not investigated his complaints about violent threats from a Lowe’s customer and that Lowe’s had not taken its obligation to ensure his safety or that of other employees seriously.”
Instead of addressing Ochoa concerns, Lowe’s fired him four days later, allegedly in retaliation for his complaints that management failed to investigate the customer’s threats and ensure he and his fellow employees had a safe work environment, according to the suit.
“Up until his termination, Mr. Ochoa had faithfully served Lowe’s as an employee for five years and had never been reprimanded prior to his termination,” the suit states. “All he did was ask Lowe’s to investigate his complaints about threats of violence at the workplace and yet that was unacceptable to Lowe’s.”
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