Paul Wellman

After Layoffs, Haggen Sued for Discrimination

Developmentally Disabled Clerk Claims He Was Unfairly Let Go

On July 31, a class action discrimination lawsuit was filed in Santa Barbara Superior Court against Haggen Food & Pharmacy on behalf of William Morris, a 60-year-old developmentally disabled man who had worked as a courtesy clerk for over three years at the Fairview Vons location that Haggen bought, and on behalf of all California-based developmentally disabled courtesy clerks that Haggen has laid off since the beginning of this year.

Morris, a long-term Santa Barbara resident who is married, was laid off without reason on July 9, 2015, after receiving five days notice, according to the lawsuit. In addition to bagging and carrying out groceries, organizing shopping carts, and performing janitorial tasks, his job as a courtesy clerk included price checking upon request.

Since taking over and rebranding a number of Vons, Pavilions, Albertsons, and Safeway stores in Southern California in 2014, Haggen promised job security to existing employees and that “nothing would change” for them, states the complaint. However, Morris’s attorneys argue, the corporation unfairly terminated developmentally disabled courtesy clerks when they “engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against developmentally disabled employees by disproportionately terminating them from Haggen employment.”

In a prepared statement, Haggen asserted that all employees were laid off due to financial need: “The decision to eliminate the Clerks Helper job classification in our Pacific Southwest Region stores was made out of business necessity.” Additionally, layoffs were done by seniority and in accordance with Haggen’s collective bargaining agreement, representatives said. Haggen also expressed remorse for those people who are now out of work and claims to be hiring ex-employees back as well as helping them find jobs elsewhere.

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