Carney R. Shegerian, founder of Shegerian & Associates, a Santa Monica-based law firm specializing in employee rights, has issued a statement aimed at all employees in light of a recent news story regarding a worker killed by a cardboard crushing machine in the Los Angeles area.
The worker, 64-year-old Efren Monterroso, was inside the compactor at a North Hills factory when it somehow was turned on, crushing him. Exact details of the case are still under investigation, and questions about the safety of the machine are being raised by the media and employee advocacy groups.
Shegerian, who has represented wrongfully terminated “whistleblowers” throughout his career, stresses that it is crucially important for individuals aware of unsafe conditions in their workplace to come forward as lives may be at stake. Shegerian said that many are aware of dangerous conditions but refuse to come forward for fear of being fired.
“California workers are protected by law,” said Shegerian. “It is actually illegal for someone to be fired or harassed for reporting safety violations.”
Shegerian cites the case of one of his own “whistleblower” clients who two years ago was fired for complaining to her employer about safety concerns regarding some unsafe conditions and dangerous machines. Shegerian represented the woman and helped her file a wrongful termination claim, and she was awarded $9.2 million.
“The real problem is that people are frightened to report safety hazards – even if it means leaving themselves and their coworkers at risk,” said Shegerian. “As employees in this state, these workers have a right to report these safety concerns and not feel any negative repercussions from their employers.”
“This is more of a concern now than ever,” said Shegerian. “With the budgetary crunch our government is now experiencing, the policing of corporations for major safety violations is poor at best. Every day, millions of American workers operate dangerous and unsafe machinery. While California and Federal OSHA standards exist to help protect them, they are not being enforced. Many workers are left to their own peril when operating heavy, often outdated, unsafe machinery, while corporations look the other way to save money on repairs and replacement costs in the name of profit.”
“The bottom line here,” said Shegerian, “is that all employees have a right to work in a safe environment and not be discriminated against or wrongfully terminated if they speak up about some aspect of the job that is not safe. We really don’t want to see more unnecessary situations such as the one involving Mr. Monterroso.”
As an experienced trial attorney, Shegerian has tried numerous jury trials in both state and federal court, always representing individuals that have suffered financial or emotional losses and have been wronged by employers, including major corporations.