How Many F-Bombs Are Grounds for California Labor Lawsuit?
Kimberly realizes that verbal abuse may not be reason enough to file a California wrongful termination lawsuit, but she is thankful for the opportunity to speak out about her former managers at Staples. They dropped the f-bomb and even the c-word on her too many times.
Clearly, Kimberly was a valuable employee at this particular Staples store: she was hired in May 2011 as a cashier and became full-time inventory lead for the entire store within a few months. As well, she started at $8.75 per hour, then got a raise to $9.25, and a few months before she was fired, Kimberly was given another raise to $10 per hour.
“I ran the store without a GM for several months so I had a really good track record and I did extra work with no pay increase; you do it for the team,” she says. And she often worked 6 p.m. until 2 a.m. shifts doing inventory without overtime compensation.
“We were often behind on a load - 10 pallets a week would get delivered and it was my sole responsibility to get products onto the shelves,” says Kimberly, “and I never took breaks or lunches from August last year until I was terminated. They would make me come in weekends for so-called one-hour meetings and I wouldn’t get paid. That happened about 20 times. Of course I asked my supervisor for overtime pay but I was told it was store policy - Staples doesn’t pay overtime.”
But overtime is just one complaint. Kimberly tolerated extreme verbal abuse from a new supervisor for several months before she was wrongfully terminated.
“This new supervisor had it in for me since Day One,” Kimberly explains. “She didn’t like me because I didn’t want to train her - she should have known her duties. ‘I have no problem working with you but I am not doing your job,’ I said. Her response was abusive: She called me a bitch and the C-word. All sorts of people heard her drop the C bomb. But almost all employees are scared to complain or speak out against anything or anyone for fear of losing their job.
“Next up, she hired her friend as part-time supervisor, which is still above me. Then she wrote me up. I was in the management trainee program but she removed me in May, about a month after she was hired. In response to my write-up, my General Manager showed up and said, ‘If I didn’t like your f**king ass or have respect for you, I would fire your ass right now.’ They talk like this to anyone who makes them the least bit angry. By the way, I had only met the GM three times.
“And I’m not the only one singled out and getting abused. My former co-worker Don [not his real name] still works for Staples. Our GM brought his daughter, age 13, to the store every Sunday afternoon and told Don to keep an eye on her. It stopped him from completing his work and affected me too because he was my right-hand person. So he complained to HR. ‘When you have a f**king problem come to me next time instead of squealing to HR because now I have a f**king problem and next time I am gonna make it worse for you guys,’ the GM told Don. We dealt with threats daily.”
Last May, Kimberly received another negative write-up - she wasn’t far from termination. She went to HR with harassment and verbal abuse complaints but HR said she had to talk to the GM first - then he would instruct HR!
“My GM told me to talk to the part-time super and either negotiate terms and kiss her ass and make her happy or I would lose my f**king job,” says Kimberly. “I had no choice. I went into her office and right away she was on the defensive so it didn’t go well. I explained that my job is to take care of the store and make it run properly and not socialize with her when I am helping customers.”
Three days later at 7:30 a.m. Kimberly was fired. And she didn’t get paid for that day: she was entitled to four hours pay because she was scheduled to work. Kimberly says this is how it went down:
“Firing your ass sucks for me too because now I don’t have anyone to help me run the store,” the GM said.
“So why are you letting me go?”
“If you just kissed her ass, you could have kept your job,” he replied.
“The way they treat people is horrible,” says Kimberly. “I just hope this doesn’t happen to anyone else. I filed for unemployment but I am pretty sure Staples is going to try to deny me by saying it was my fault due to job performance. But I have an audio recording from my previous GM saying I was a great worker. I know that it isn’t right to record anyone but I told him beforehand and he said, ‘Just do what you have to do.’ I was just scared for my job. Maybe that audio recording will come in handy one day…”