A former In-N-Out employee has accused the chain of violating California labor codes, failing to follow COVID-19 safety protocols, conducting unfair business practices and retaliating against him for speaking out against the chain in new claims filed on June 7.
The former employee, Luis Becerra, was employed by the chain for five years until his termination in May 2020 and claims he is speaking for a larger group of current and former In-N-Out employees dating back to January 2020, according to court documents filed.
Becerra accused In-N-Out of failing to pay wages due upon termination, failing to provide accurate wage statements, failing to provide personnel files in a timely fashion, failing to furnish a safe place of employment and not discharge employees who complain of health and safety conditions, discrimination and retaliation for using sick leave and retaliating for his engaging in protected reporting activities.
"At In-N-Out Burger, we have always cared for our associates as if they are our own family and we are disappointed with the baseless and false claims that Mr. Becerra has made in his lawsuit,” said Arnie Wensinger, chief legal and business officer for In-N-Out, told Nation's Restaurant News via e-mail.
The court documents cite several specific instances when Becerra felt discriminated, blackmailed or uncomfortable with management. Additionally, Becerra called the health department in February 2020 citing a coworker who lost a family member to COVID-19 and was not forced to quarantine despite being in close contact with the deceased. The health department cited the chain for violations, but it’s unclear whether they were COVID-related.
"Employees were scared," Rene Potter, Becerra’s representation, said in a statement to Law360. "Mr. Becerra saw all of this going on, so he reported it. … In-N-Out responded by using improper write-ups it had issued against Mr. Becerra for taking short, valid medical leaves as false justification to terminate him."
He also cited the company’s refusal to pay him for sick time related to COVID exposure and asthma symptoms that eventually led to his termination. In-N-Out Burger said it fired Becerra because he provided false documentation about an absence and exhausted sick leave. The burger chain claimed that Becerra’s absence due to asthma was with a forged medical note, according to Law360.
Becerra is represented by Potter Handy LLP, which was not available for comment.