San Benito Man Wins Settlement from Equipment Depot
For Immediate Release
Aug. 23, 2019
Kathryn Youker, Labor and Employment Group Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nancy Nusser, Communications Director, (410) 934-9588 or (512) 374-2764; email@example.com
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (Aug. 23, 2019) – A San Benito mechanic, who was fired after cooperating with fellow workers to complain about abuse by his supervisors, obtained a settlement from his employer, Equipment Depot, of Pharr. The worker, Martin Enrique Garza, who is represented by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA), described the settlement as “finally getting justice” from Equipment Depot.
“When we complained, management tried to keep us quiet by threatening us dozens of times and finally by firing me,” said Garza, who had worked for 23 years at multiple branches of Equipment Depot. “I hope my settlement sends a message to workers – you have a right to speak up with your co-workers to try to improve your workplace.”
TRLA attorney Kathryn Youker, who is representing Garza, said, “This is an egregious case that is symptomatic of a larger problem. Management is able to silence the voices of employees by threatening retaliation, because they often don’t realize they have the right under federal law to speak up together about their working conditions.”
Garza said the abuse started when a company employee was moved into the position of supervisor of the service department where Garza worked. He said the supervisor yelled at him, called him derogatory names, subjected him to harsh, unjustified discipline, and in other ways humiliated and demeaned him. Although Garza complained to another manager, no action was taken.
Other workers claimed they suffered similar abuse, and in early 2018, Garza and several of his fellow employees wrote letters of complaint to the company’s president in Waco. He also complained by email to a human resources representative. During a subsequent meeting with the president, vice-president, and human resources representative, workers reiterated their complaints.
Garza alleged that a day after the meeting, supervisors threatened the workers in their monthly meeting and repeated the threats during every monthly meeting for the next five months. Other abuse, including shouting and swearing at workers, also continued. In September 2018, Garza was called into the office of his supervisor and was told that he was fired.
With the help of TRLA, Garza filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which opened an investigation into his case.
Garza had filed a discrimination complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), which was also resolved with the settlement.
Established in 1970, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, Inc. (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides free legal services to about 23,000 low-income Texans in 68 counties. TRLA’s mission is to promote the dignity, self-sufficiency, safety and access to justice for low-income Texans by providing high-quality legal assistance and related educational services.