Where’s the Good Will?

     MIAMI (CN) – A regional manager claims Goodwill Industries of South Florida fired him after he truthfully reported on a vice president who was caught on camera waking off with cash from the register. Orlando S. Sanchez, former regional manager for nine retail stores and 13 donation centers, sued Goodwill under the state Whistleblower Act.




     Sanchez claims that although two people normally take the money from the register to the office before it goes to the bank, Vice President Manny Lopez took the cash alone on the grand opening and left the building, then returned and handed the cash to him in the office.
     The next day, it was discovered that $1,294 in cash was missing.
     Sanchez says he told Lopez, his supervisor, about it, and Lopez asked loss prevention to investigate.
     Sanchez directed loss prevention to the property’s video surveillance, which is run by Florida Safeguard, whose owner, James Wilhelm, is also a member of Goodwill’s board of directors, according to the complaint.
     “Upon seeing video footage that would implicate Manny Lopez as the culprit for the missing cash fund,” loss prevention contacted police, and Wilhelm began conducting his own investigation, interviewing several employees, including Sanchez, the complaint states.
     During his interview, Sanchez says, “James Wilhelm told plaintiff that he was certain that it was Manny Lopez that had taken the cash funds.”
     Wilhelm told president Dennis Pastrana what he’d found, and Pastrana had company attorney Susan Norton conduct an additional investigation, the complaint states.
     “Plaintiff placed a phone [call] to James Wilhelm, advising him that Manny Lopez had instructed plaintiff to go and meet Susan Norton, Esq. James Wilhelm advised plaintiff that he knew Ms. Norton for over 30 years and that plaintiff should be honest and that plaintiff would not lose his job for testifying during this investigation,” (30) according to the complaint.
     Sanchez says that during the 3½-hour interview, he answered questions about Lopez’s actions during the grand opening, as well as other “irregularities,” such as Lopez’s storing merchandise in the office without ever putting it up for sale.
     A month later, Lopez said that the investigation was over, and “thereafter, Manny Lopez immediately began treating plaintiff in a very hostile manner, such as by increasing plaintiff’s sales budget quota by 25 percent, reducing the staff assigned to plaintiff’s stores, reducing the payroll plaintiff had to use to pay employees at each store, canceling delivery of merchandise to plaintiff’s stores so that plaintiff could not make the increased sales quota, and assigning a weaker performing store to plaintiff’s region,” the complaint states.
     Sanchez claims Lopez also harassed him by withholding his paycheck, and that “when plaintiff requested his payroll check, Manny Lopez stated, ‘I have the check right here, next to the rings, the watches and the merchandise that I hold here in the office.’ Said statement was clearly directed to plaintiff’s testimony.”
     A month later, Sanchez was fired for “lacked of confidence” and “Goodwill ratified the conduct of Manny Lopez by absolving him of any wrongdoing,” the complaint states.
     Sanchez adds: “Employees of Goodwill have had their employment terminated for lesser amounts of missing funds such as when $50 or even $20 are missing pursuant to company policy.”
     Sanchez seeks reinstatement, lost earnings, and damages for retaliation and pain and suffering. He is represented by J.H. Zidell of Miami Beach.

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