A 65-year-old former employee of Home Depot has filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that he was punished for acting as a whistleblower in helping reveal the company’s illegal hazardous waste dumping that resulted in a $27.8 million fine. He also claimed Home Depot continues the practices, even after it was put on a five-year consent decree by courts to refrain from the dumping.
The whistleblower, James Girsch, said he was singled out by Home Depot after exposing the wrongdoing with “acts of oppression, fraud, malice, defamation and criminal activity” to try to keep him silent. He filed his whistleblower claim November 29, 2018, claiming whistleblower retaliation from the company and several of his supervisors. His legal team is also considering adding wrongful termination to the list of charges. He seeks a jury trial and punitive damages of a sum to be determined.
Girsch started working for Home Depot in 2005 as a sales associate and was a department supervisor in Ontario by 2008. In 2011, he moved to Escondido, California, and became a supervisor of the paint department there in 2014. In his lawsuit, he claims he would observe the store regularly disposing of hazardous materials, including paint, solvents, flammable substances and other chemical waste, in public dumpsters rather than processing them appropriately for hazardous waste disposal. He also noticed the store would collect foreign waste — including drug lab dumps — from the perimeter of the building and dispose of it along with the store’s garbage.
Shortly after filing this initial claim in December 2014, he was accused of a safety violation at his store for using a nine-foot ladder to move items from eight-foot shelves, a method of moving merchandise frequently used by employees at the store and under the supervision of store management. Girsch says that never before had anyone been disciplined for this practice at the store.
Shortly after that, managers pulled him aside and reprimanded him for “spreading false information” about the illegal dumping of hazmat. They threatened to fire him after denying any illegal activity. Girsch claims there were further incidents throughout the two years that followed, including demotions and other threats.
If you believe you have been the victim of retaliation due to bringing up concerns of illegal company practices, work with an experienced whistleblower attorney at Kardell Law Group to learn about your legal options.