April 9, 2021

Manuel Contreras (“Contreras”), a former Sanitation Department employee for Green Thumb Produce, in Banning, California, is claiming that he was fired for reporting suspected California Labor Code violations by his employer to the California Office of the Labor Commissioner. In his lawsuit, filed on March 15, 2021 in Riverside County Superior Court, Mr. Contreras claims that he had been deprived of a raise for two years, despite him taking on additional job duties, and despite that employees he had trained were being awarded raises. Mr. Contreras contacted the San Bernardino office of the California Labor Commissioner given his suspicion that this wage disparity might violate state law.

In the lawsuit, Mr. Contreras states that he spoke with a Deputy Labor Commissioner who affirmed his suspicions and provided him with literature on the relevant Labor Code sections that Green Thumb Produce may be violating.

On September 3, 2020, Mr. Contreras showed this literature to some of his co-workers and asked them if they would accompany him to a meeting with the Human Resources Director, Sendy Ochoa (“Ochoa”), regarding these allegations. Before Mr. Contreras could convince any co-worker to accompany him, Ochoa summoned him to a meeting in her office. Mr. Contreras’s direct supervisor, Miguel Ramos (“Ramos”), and Ochoa’s assistant, Tricia Balderrama (“Balderrama”) were also present.

At this meeting, Mr. Contreras asked for his long-awaited raise, which Ochoa denied. Mr. Contreras then showed her the literature from the Labor Commissioner stating “I know the law.” Ochoa refused to look at this material and immediately ordered Mr. Contreras to go home for the rest of the day.

Upon reporting to work the next day, Mr. Contreras was fired. In his complaint, he alleges this firing was unlawful retaliation in violation of the California Labor Code.

Mr. Contreras is represented by attorneys Kyle Todd and Troy R. Candiotti, of Kyle Todd, P.C. Requests for comment can be directed to attorney Todd at info@kyletodd.com (323) 208-9171.

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