Personal Injury

Goodwill Driver Fired After Witnessing Coworker’s Horrific Death

Goodwill store interior Los Angeles Shutterstock 140x210 Goodwill Driver Fired After Witnessing Coworker’s Horrific DeathA former Goodwill truck driver who witnessed a coworker’s horrific on-the-job death last September says that the charitable organization fired him when he returned from a weeklong break to deal with the psychological trauma of the accident.

Dave Goudie, 56, told The Sacramento Bee that instead of providing sympathy and support in the wake of the gruesome accident, Goodwill Industries of Sacramento Valley and Northern Nevada instead fired him after he returned to work from a paid administrative leave.

Mr. Goudie told The Bee Goodwill fired him in retaliation for being a safety-minded employee who had warned the organization about multiple serious safety lapses that put workers’ safety and lives at risk.

About five months after he started working for Goodwill, Mr. Goudie was working at the Sacramento outlet. He was checking the alignment of a giant bin that was positioned to roll off the truck and attach to a stationary compactor when fellow employee Abraham Nicholas Garza, 26, stuck his head between the bin and the compactor on the opposite side to get a closer look at the bin’s position.

Unaware of Mr. Garza’s position, another Goodwill employee who was driving the truck holding the bin released it, and Mr. Garza’s head was crushed. Mr. Goudie witnessed the horrific incident.

However, when Mr. Goudie returned to work after the accident, a top executive of the Sacramento Goodwill fired Mr. Goudie, issued him his final check along with a memo banning him from the Goodwill premises, and warned him that he could be arrested for trespassing.

Mr. Goudie filed a complaint with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office, alleging Goodwill fired him for cooperating with state safety investigators and warning managers about a lack of training and other safety hazards at the Sacramento Goodwill outlet.

Cal-OSHA compliance officer Anthony M. Galvez stated in a letter that its investigation of the accident determined Mr. Goudie was not at fault, as Goodwill had adamantly claimed, pointing to the organization’s poor safety record.

“Interviews with hourly employees responsible for changing out the roll-off bins revealed they did not have a clear understanding of where to position themselves during the roll-off exchanges, hence leading to Mr. Garza exposed within the zone of danger,” Mr. Galvez wrote, according to The Bee.

Cal-OSHA determined that Mr. Goudie was also at risk of death or injury that day because both he and Mr. Garza were standing in the “zone of danger” when the accident occurred.

“This is not the first time we have seen an employer fire an employee after having engaged in an accident investigation with us,” Mr. Galvez wrote.

According to The Bee, Mr. Goudie repeatedly reported safety issues during his employment with Goodwill, including balding tires, a broken fuel gauge, broken sun visor, malfunctioning rear door latch, engine problems, and severe brake problems. On May 1, 2016, Mr. Goudie noted he had “no trailer brakes,” which posed a “jackknife hazard.”

Mr. Goudie also documented other safety hazards at the Goodwill facility. In a five-page memo titled “Employee Workplace Safety Hazard Notification,” Mr. Goudie wrote:

“Based on my personal observations most employees now operating compactors at each plant have not received the required training … This exposes Goodwill Industries to fines in the tens of thousands of dollars from Cal-OSHA and should an employee become injured or killed as a result of this lack of training, civil damages could climb into the millions.”

According to The Bee, Mr. Goudie plans on suing Goodwill for wrongful termination, alleging he was fired for being a whistleblower and accusing the organization of smearing his image in the wake of the accident.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Mr. Goudie as driving the truck that released the bin killing Mr. Garza. The story has been corrected to reflect that another Goodwill employee was driving the truck and operating the bin, while Mr. Goudie was instead working alongside Mr. Garza on the loading dock. We deeply apologize for this error and regret any distress this may have caused Mr. Goudie.