Former employee sues Habitat for Humanity over COVID-19 safety concerns

Habitat for Humanity
Posted at 2:47 PM, Jan 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-16 17:47:11-05

LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- A former employee of San Gabriel Valley Habitat for Humanity Inc. is suing the organization, alleging he was wrongfully fired in 2020 for complaining that work conditions at the store where he worked potentially exposed him to the coronavirus, which killed one customer in March.

Philip Salvatti's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations include wrongful termination, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, hostile work environment and various state Labor Code violations. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Thursday.

A representative for the organization did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Salvatti worked as a sales associate at the organization's outlet in Duarte that accepts donations and resells the items at the location or online, the suit states. As the pandemic began to spread in March, the store implemented no proper plan or precautions as sick and elderly people came inside, and refused to wear gloves or other personal protective equipment, the suit states.

The number of customers inside often exceeded what was safe, and a regular store patron died of the coronavirus on March 20, the suit alleges.

Salvatti reached out to management about addressing his safety concerns and asked what precautions would be taken, the suit states. Salvatti also explained that his wife was immunocompromised and affected by a disability/severe medical condition that was directly impacted by COVID-19, the suit states.

He also said that he had his own medical concerns and that he cared for his elderly parents, both of whom were affected by medical conditions and disabilities that were also directly impacted by the coronavirus, thus putting his family members in increased danger of serious illness, according to the suit.

But no new precautions were taken despite Salvatti's complaints, which fell on deaf ears, the suit states.

Salvatti remained employed with Habitat, including during a time when the store was temporarily closed, the suit states. When the store was set to reopen in May, he told the organization that he was available to return to work while again expressing his concerns about safety, the suit states.

In response, Habitat fired Salvatti on May 19, the suit alleges.