NEWARK, N.J. – A Navy Veteran who says his employer, a Trader Joe’s store in Westwood, N.J., fired him for reporting dangerous and unsanitary conditions, has fired a whistleblower lawsuit against the company.
Joe Meyers, 57, says in his lawsuit that Trader Joe’s violated the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act when it fired him after he complained of several health and safety violations at the grocery chain. The act is designed to protect workers from retaliation when they blow the whistle on unsafe work practices and conditions, fraud, and other wrongdoing.
The complaint, filed July 2 in federal court in Newark, states that Mr. Meyers began alerting his supervisors to problems at the Westwood Trader Joe’s in late 2011. He alleged that the store’s freezer temperatures were unsafely high because they were overloaded with merchandise. Mr. Meyers also complained of dangerous clutter, rodent droppings, spoiled food, mold, stagnant mop water and “other hygienic and dangerous filth” throughout the store.
According to NorthJersey.com, Mr. Meyers’ bosses advised him to “keep quiet about his ‘frustrations’” and told him he wasn’t being a “team player.” Supervisors also criticized him for not having “a sense of fun” when he called out the various violations.
Human Resources personnel at the company told Mr. Meyers he probably didn’t fit in with the company culture, according to the lawsuit, and Trader Joe’s executives told him he should find work at a company with a different culture. One time he was criticized for his unwillingness to “create a sense of fun even in the most unfavorable circumstances,” according to NoerthJersey.com. He was ultimately fired on July 5, 2013.
“He was 23 years in the Navy. He really is a stand-up guy, so this is quite unfortunate and really bad treatment of an employee who was trying to remedy the problems,” Mr. Meyers’ lawyer told NorthJersey.com.
Mr. Meyers seeks compensatory and punitive damages totaling $5 million plus attorneys’ fees and court expenses.