The lawsuit stems from an injury Benny suffered when working at the Guitar Center. In a nutshell, he was almost electrocuted from a faulty amplifier and to this day, still has seizures. The company more or less turned a blind eye to the incident and has consequently dug itself into a deep legal mess, violating more than one California labor law…
"After I filed an injury report with the Guitar Center, it mysteriously went missing," says Bernie. "I was then supposed to see the company doctor but they postponed that and I had to use my own health insurance to get medical care. After I realized they weren't going to help me, I decided to look for an attorney.
I didn't want anything, I just wanted my medical bills to be taken care of; we had a health insurance policy at work and of course I was entitled to Workers' Compensation. I wasn't looking to go to court, I just wanted to be treated for the injury but the bosses at Guitar Center couldn't care less and that was disturbing. I hired a lawyer and right away we filed Workers' Compensation papers. Next up, I did the depositions with the opposing attorney—he had a million questions to ask. My attorney said everything went well--I just told the truth. He was adamant throughout this whole case that I say exactly what happened—there was no denying the proof, to us anyway.
The other side took witness statements with four employees at Guitar Center. One of them didn't even work there at the time of the accident and two more gave information that was favorable to me. They both said that I told them I had been electrocuted. And one guy even smelled the smoke from the amplifier (that needed to be repaired and almost electrocuted me).
However Zurich, the insurance company for Guitar Center, denied my claim, saying there was no problem with the amplifier. It also said there was not an amplifier brought in to be repaired on that particular day. (After the accident, I went back to the store to find the repair order for the amp because I had forgotten which day it came in. Surprisingly, the work order was nowhere to be found in our computer.)
I did report this incident to the Occupational Safety Hazard Association (OSHA). They went to the Center and did an inspection. Lo and behold, they found multiple electrical violations and documentation violations. We do have HR but OSHA sent them numerous violations on their procedures, such as falsification of documents and records, and safety issues. (To date, they have fines totaling $11,000 from OSHA.)
For instance, if an employee was injured on the job, there was no way for him to report the injury. There was no chain of command or written procedures. As for safety training on ladders or extension cords, for example, HR will have a form they want you to sign, stating that you have had this training. But we haven't had any training. This is a typical example of falsified records. One form was dated January 2008 with every employee's signature then they had another for February and March with everyone's signatures. But January and February are duplicates with the dates changed. They were identical—are they really that stupid, thinking they could dupe everyone?
We filed the lawsuit and Guitar Center denied everything. My attorney is aggressive (and that's a good thing) and we are now getting a court date. He says with the two employees' evidence, they have no reason to deny my claim. We also filed serious and willful misconduct. In other words, Guitar Center knew of an existing problem yet did nothing to fix it. For instance, the way they stack speaker boxes caused one employee to have neck surgery and they are still stacking them the same way.
In another incident, a live electrical plug was hanging out of the wall, I told HR about it but they did nothing. One month after my injury, I showed the store manager the cord. 'The next person who touches this might not be as lucky as me,' I said. If someone touched that plug, they would get shocked. The last time I went to the store, two weeks ago, it was fixed.
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I still have seizures but they aren't so bad. I have to take 9 pills in the morning and 12 at night. I have lost my drivers license and I'm not sure if I will ever be able to drive again. I hope one day to return to work—I'm bored. I would like to return to the Guitar Center but the few times I went to the store I was treated like a leper, even by the employees.
My lawyer is confident that I will win this case. It is about getting what I paid and what I am owed. And companies should not violate the California Labor Law."