CHICAGO (CN) - Caterpillar, annoyed that an employee had applied for workers compensation, sicced a private eye on him and fired him on a bogus claim that he did office work while on disability leave, the man claims in court.
Pedro Velez sued R.J. McGough & Associates and Caterpillar, in Cook County Court.
Velez began working for Caterpillar in 2005. He injured his neck in 2009 and doctors determined that he needed surgery. He applied for temporary disability benefits and was approved, he says in the complaint.
"Caterpillar began taking steps to terminate plaintiff's employment in retaliation for plaintiff exercising his rights under the workers compensation scheme," the complaint states.
"In March 2011, Caterpillar sent plaintiff a letter stating he was terminated for failure to submit required paperwork supporting his need to remain on disability.
"This was false. Plaintiff had multiple phone calls with Caterpillar's nurse Cheryl Smith regarding his disability leave and had faxed over all required paperwork to remain on disability leave.
"Caterpillar then hired R.J. McGough & Associates, Inc. to investigate plaintiff."
Velez has a real estate license and worked part-time for Century 21 before he went on disability, he says in the complaint.
"When plaintiff went on disability leave, he requested that Century 21 forward all clients to a colleague," the complaint states. "At plaintiff's request Century 21 placed a letter in plaintiff's life indicating that plaintiff was on medical leave and instructed the receptionist to forward all of plaintiff's clients to another employee.
"An investigator employed by R.J. McGough & Associates, Inc., called the Century 21 office where plaintiff had worked.
"The investigator impersonated a man named 'Antonio Jimenez' and specifically asked to speak to plaintiff, falsely representing himself as a relative of plaintiff's former client.
"Believing the call to be personal, the receptionist gave this investigator plaintiff's cellular phone number.
"The investigator called plaintiff on his personal cellular telephone on or about March 8, 2011, and asked plaintiff to meet with him as a favor.
"Plaintiff agreed to meet the investigator as a favor to a friend.
"On March 9, 2011, the investigator came to the Century 21 office in Chicago with a woman falsely representing herself as 'Elena Jimenez.'
"Without plaintiff's knowledge or permission, the investigator made a secret video and audio recording of his entire conversation with plaintiff using a concealed recording device.
"The recorded conversation took place behind closed doors in a private office."
Velez says he "did not receive or ask for any compensation for attending this meeting. Rather, plaintiff believed this meeting was a favor for a friend.
"Plaintiff did not enter into any contract with the investigator, not did he engage in any transaction for which he could potentially receive compensation.
"Plaintiff did not make any future plans to meet the investigator again.
"During the meeting, plaintiff told the investigator that if he needed further assistance, he should follow up with Raphael Alvarado, the broker in the Century 21 office," the complaint states.
Velez adds that "while on leave, plaintiff did not do any work for which he earned income."
He says: "Caterpillar terminated plaintiff on March 11, 2011, relying on this illegally obtained video and audio.
"Plaintiff's Worker's Compensation action was the reason for Caterpillar's discharge of plaintiff."
Velez seeks punitive damages, back wages and reinstatement.
He is represented by Adele Nicholas.