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ESCONDIDO (KGTV)- A former Home Depot employee says he blew the whistle on serious violations at the store in Escondido, but he was the one who paid the price.
James Girsch has worked at Home Depot since 2005, starting as a sales associate. In 2011, he moved to the Escondido location on East Valley Parkway. He initially enjoyed his time working there.
"[I liked] the customer service interaction, solving the customer problems and issues, and of course, developing employees," Girsch said.
In 2014, he became supervisor for the paint department. According to his lawsuit, he noticed what he believed to be "unlawful activities concerning hazardous waste disposal" at the store where he worked.
"They were literally dumping hazmat down the garbage containers that was going to the landfills," Girsch said. He said he filed a complaint with the Environmental Protection Agency in late 2014 and also had numerous conversations with investigators about Home Depot violations.
"I reported what I felt was illegal," he said.
After that, he claimed retaliation began. He was accused of safety violations and according to his lawsuit, "repeatedly denied promotions and targeted for discipline."
"I ran a five million dollar department, which was the paint department, and I was subsequently in 2017 demoted to the tool rental," Girsch said.
Home Depot was fined millions in March 2018 for hazardous materials and customer privacy violations. An investigation between the Attorney General's office and several prosecutors' offices, including San Diego, resulted in a $27.8 million dollar settlement. The San Diego County District Attorney's Office could not reveal which local Home Depot locations were investigated, but did say all the ones inspected in the county revealed unlawful hazardous waste disposal.
"You will not silence my voice," Girsch said. "[Home Depot knows] the issues. They've ignored time after time, any attempts to resolve the issues."
A Home Depot spokesperson told Team 10: "We disagree with his claims, which we'll address in the proper form." Regarding Girsch's termination, she said his departure was unrelated to the lawsuit."