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Thursday, June 6, 2024 | Back issues
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After 33 Years at 99 Cents …

LOS ANGELES (CN) - After 33 years of work, 99 Cents Only Stores begged its first-ever employee to move from Texas to California, then fired him on the first day in his new home, the man claims in court.

Jose Gomez sued 99 Cents Only Stores, its president Richard Anicetti and its managing agent Tony Year, in Superior Court.

"Gomez has been employed by 99 Cents Only Stores for 33 years," the lawsuit states. "Gomez was the first employee ever hired by 99 Cents Only Stores, and was the manager of the first 99 Cents Only Store. Over the years, Gomez rose through the hierarchy of 99 Cents Only Stores and in 1997 was promoted to vice president of retail operations."

Gomez says he moved his family to Houston in 2008, to open more stores and improve the ones already there. They planned to stay there, so he bought a house and his children enrolled in a local college.

When the founder of 99 Cents Only Stores died in April 2013, the new CEO, defendant Anicetti, asked Gomez to move to California "where Gomez would be given a new title of vice president of new store opening and remodeling," the complaint states.

Gomez says he was reluctant to move because he and his family were happy in Texas. He claims Anicetti "continued to pressure (him) to move back to California" by, among other things, promising that the company would cover moving costs, that Gomez would have more responsibilities in his new role, and that he would earn the same salary in California as in Texas: $191,000 a year.

After discussing it with his family, Gomez says, he agreed to move back to California and sold his house.

But one hour into his first day at work, he says, he "was called into a meeting with Tony Yera and Jennifer Castinia from Human Resources. At the meeting, Gomez was informed that the company had changed its mind, and that 99 Cents Only Stores had no need for a V.P. of Store Openings, and that his employment was terminated."

Castinia is not a party to the complaint.

Gomez claims Anicetti and 99 Cents Only Stores lied to him, inducing him to uproot his family "fully knowing that Gomez would not work for even one day at the position they promised him."

He also claims the company is using his likeness on its fleet of trucks and on toys and other merchandise without his permission.

He seeks punitive damages for fraud during employment, breach of implied-in-fact contract, negligent misrepresentation, wrongful termination, intentional infliction of emotional distress and misappropriation of his name and likeness.

He also wants damages for loss of income and lost earning capacity.

He is represented by Michael L. Justice of Westlake Village.

99 Cents Only Stores did not return emails seeking comment.

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