Haggen Facing New Lawsuit from Former Employee

In the latest twist in the escalating tensions between Haggen and Safeway-Albertsons, a former Vons employee who joined Haggen after its acquisition of dozens of Albertsons and Safeway stores has filed a lawsuit against the Bellingham, Wash.-based supermarket chain for allegedly retaliating against her for reporting in-store price discrepancies, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.

"Debra Sukiasian, a pricing specialist, said she was discriminated against and forced to retire after she reported a mismatch between prices on the shelf and at the cash registers at the Haggen store where she worked in Carpinteria, Calif., according to the lawsuit filed [on Sept. 9, 2015] in state court in Santa Barbara County," reports the L.A. Times.

Sukiasian's lawsuit, which seeks compensatory and punitive damages, comes on the heels of a $1 billion lawsuit Haggen filed against Albertsons, which accused the latter of sabotage and “anticompetitive, unfair and unlawful conduct” that set up Haggen for failure as it grew from an 18-store Pacific Northwest regional retailer into a 160-store West Coast chain. Prior to that, Albertsons filed a suit against Haggen charging that Haggen failed to pay millions of dollars for inventory it acquired as part of the deal.

According to Sukiasian's lawsuit, the plaintiff contends that beginning in June, when the Carpinteria, Calif., Vons store where she was originally employed was converted to the Haggen banner, many items that were tagged with one price on the shelves scanned higher at the register.

Sukiasian said she felt the overcharges violated both state and federal laws, and also demonstrated false advertising and weights and measures violations, and brought the problem to the attention of a Haggen pricing coordinator.

After several weeks passed with no response, the L.A. Times story continued, Sukiasian emailed Haggen's West Coast president, Bill Shaner, to make him aware of her concerns. Her complaint goes on to describe how she was "upbraided" by a district manager and another Haggen executive for emailing Shaner. The lawsuit further alleges that another executive also told a manager at the Carpinteria store to find a way to fire Sukiasian.

"Sakiasian, who was eligible for retirement but wanted to work for another few years, ultimately retired in September instead of risking a termination, the lawsuit said," per the L.A Times, which continued: "She was constructively discharged when she was made to choose between retiring and being terminated," the lawsuit said. Haggen "acted with oppression, fraud, malice."

For its part, Haggen said it had not been made aware of the lawsuit and was unable to comment.

The full L.A. Times story can be found here.


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