A former Home Depot employee is suing the national DIY retailer alleging it fired him in retaliation for calling out illegal hazardous waste dumping practices.
James Girsch , 65, of Escondido, California, filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against Home Depot Nov. 29 in San Diego Superior Court. The former Home Depot paint department supervisor says he was one of the whistleblowers who reported that Home Depot centers in California were “routinely and systematically sending hazardous waste to local landfills that were not permitted to receive those wastes, and were tossing documents containing sensitive customer information into store trash bins, potentially exposing the information to identity thieves,” according to the Escondido Times-Advocate.
Mr. Grisch’s whistleblower lawsuit alleges that he “observed that Defendant would regularly dispose of its hazardous materials (“hazmat”) including paint, lubricants, solvents, electronic parts, flammable substances, and other chemical waste by dumping them into public dumpsters headed to public landfills, instead of being properly processed for hazardous waste disposal.”
He also alleged that he “noticed that Home Depot would collect foreign waste, including criminal drug lab residue, from outside the perimeter of its store building and dispose of them with the store’s garbage,” without notifying law enforcement.
In March 2018, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge ordered the Georgia-based retailer to pay $27.84 million to resolve allegations that it unlawfully disposed of hazardous waste, and discarded records without rendering private customer information unreadable, the Escondido Times-Advocate reported.
Mr. Girsch now alleges that as a whistleblower in that case, he was “singled out by Home Depot with acts of oppression, fraud, malice, defamation and criminal activity in an attempt to silence his voice.”
“They did their best to drive me out, but that wasn’t successful; so, on the 21st [of December] they terminated me,” he told the Times-Advocate. Mr. Girsch said Home Depot claimed he was fired for a “policy violation,” but he says it was the end result of a long, ongoing series of retaliatory actions his supervisors took against him after he began reporting the illegal dumping.
Mr. Girsch claims Home Depot and several of his supervisors retaliated against him in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). According to the Times-Advocate, Mr. Girsch may add wrongful retaliation to the five counts of violation of whistleblower laws. In addition to compensatory damages, he seeks a jury trial and punitive damages.