The Inside Story On The Publix Suit
The Publix lawsuit is a case that has been making its way through the US courts for the past year. The original suit was filed by the heirs of a deceased Publix Hispanic employee, Gloria Gil. Their attorney claimed that the deceased had discriminated against them when he fired them in 2009. The case gained notoriety when former President George W. Bush and other political figures made statements supporting the plaintiffs. It also became a cause celebre when candidate Mitt Romney surrogate Ohio Rep. John Kasich referred to the case as a “mob mentality.”
According to multiple reports, the suit was initially intended to be filed in Florida, but moved south for lack of a suitable venue. After moving, the suit was assigned to a Miami-based law firm. The firm handled several high profile lawsuits, including one that centered on the OJ Simpson affair. The lawyers at this firm handled the initial case without an outside attorney, and later changed it to an attorney. That move apparently led to the discovery that the firm had made serious mistakes in gathering and preparing the case.
The initial complaint was that the victims were fired on the basis of their Hispanic status.
The victims claimed they had applied for jobs at Publix many times before being terminated. When contacted by phone, none of the applicants provided proof of residence. The store’s security guard called the applicants names and asked them to give proof of residence, which the applicants said they were unable to do. When those applicants attempted to retrieve work records from their place of employment, they were told those records were not available due to privacy policies.
After filing the initial complaint, the lawsuit moved into discovery mode. Discovery is the process in which attorneys are allowed to review documents and records to determine whether there is a case. In this case, the plaintiffs’ attorneys obtained access to the personnel files of the alleged victims.
They found that although two of the three had lived at the Discount Publix for years, there were no accounts registered in their name or account number. The only account listed was a credit card that belonged to one of the plaintiffs. The other applicant did have a bank account at the Discount Publix but had defaulted on his payments.
The plaintiffs then proceeded to ask questions of witnesses.
Three of the plaintiffs’ attorneys were called to testify. All three said that they could not believe that anyone would purposely let an employee fall victim to theft at such a popular store. One of the attorneys said he had seen a similar case at another large retail chain and felt the odds of such an occurrence at Publix were unlikely. Yet none of the employees came forward to corroborate the story.
Finally, in November of 2009, the lawsuit was brought to the attention of the Miami-Dade County State Attorney’s Office. Miami-Dade County is where the Discount Publix is located. Detectives from this office began meeting with the security guards and other employees after the lawsuit was filed. During these meetings, it was determined that the accused employees had orchestrated the robbery as a sort of job simulation, in which some of the suspects knew they would be stealing money from the customers.
A few months after the surveillance began, one of the surveillance team noticed that one of the employees had a gun.
He was taken into custody. It was learned that another employee had threatened one of the customer’s daughters with death if the store clerk did not go on the job. The couple’s daughter was put on paid leave while the security personnel investigated the threats.
Later, the mother of one of the suspects, Jaracia Fuentes, tried to sue the company for not adequately protecting her daughter. Her attorney, Gary Chavez, claimed that the surveillance team had improperly searched the premises for guns because they failed to inform them that firearms were present. A Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge denied the request for a ruling on the matter, and the case was further delayed. No charges against Fuentes or anyone else have been brought to fruition. Instead, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office announced that it would not pursue the case due to lack of evidence.