Jose A. Rivera worked for Costco in 2012. He was a forklift operator who took multiple medical leaves to treat shoulder, knee, and back injuries. At the end of his tenure, Rivera was investigated and accused of sexually harassing a female supervisor. The supervisor alleged that Rivera yanked her back and spun her around. Rivera’s attorney contended that Rivera, a native Spanish speaker, was only interviewed and investigated in English. Also, in order to paint Rivera in an irresponsible light, the general manager of that location emailed Rivera’s medical records to investigators, establishing he had missed substantial amounts of work.
Rivera’s attorney pointed out how odd Costco’s conduct was of this particular investigation; it did not follow Costco corporate’s standard protocol and procedures. The jury agreed that the investigation was a pretext to terminate Rivera for his disability.
The jury awarded Rivera a combined $1.7 million– $1.18 million for disability discrimination and $500,000 for defamation. Rivera’s attorneys commented that this kind of verdict for Riverside County was rare and unique, especially “for someone making $21 an hour.”