Worker claims company laid him off, hired lower-paids in his place

Kelly Holleran Jan. 30, 2009, 12:00am

A St. Clair County man has filed suit against his former employer, alleging he was wrongfully terminated so the company could hire new, lower-paid workers in his place.

Charles J. Bourda also claims that Caliber Auto Transfer of St. Louis made numerous false representations to him when he was hired.

Bourda was hired to perform vehicle loading services, and in exchange, Caliber agreed to provide benefits, which included medical benefits and union dues, according to the complaint filed Jan. 23 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

On Feb. 24, Bourda and his co-workers were laid off and told there was insufficient work to allow them to continue working, the suit states.

Later, though, Bourda claims he and his fellow former employees found out the company instead hired lower-paid workers in their place.

"Said behavior, actions and inactions by the defendants were motivated by the defendants' quest to take advantage of plaintiff and his co-workers by depriving plaintiff and his co-workers of wages and other benefits to which they were entitled so that the defendants could wrongfully terminate employment of plaintiff and his co-workers and provide substitute employees at a lessor rate so that defendants' profits would increase and so that defendants' expenses would decrease with little or no regard to the impact of such on the human beings who trusted defendants to treat them fairly," the suit states.

As a group, Bourda and his colleagues approached union representation in hopes they would retain their employment, according to the complaint.

However, they were informed they could not obtain union representation because Caliber had not paid the union dues Bourda and his co-workers were promised, the suit states.

After Caliber laid off Bourda and his fellow workers, the company approached government offices and told them that Bourda and others either left voluntarily or were dismissed for misconduct.

"Defendants made such representations, accusations and charges knowing full well such were completely baseless and such would interfere with benefits needed by plaintiff and his co-workers in order to have income and in order to purchase groceries and other essential needs," the suit states.

Because of the loss of his job, Bourda claims he suffered a derivation of income, lost employment benefits and has suffered emotionally.

Caliber breached its implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing by failing to arrange for labor union representation, by failing to provide a copy of the collective bargaining agreement and by terminating Bourda's employment to hire lesser-paid workers, according to the complaint.

It also failed to provide Bourda with his full compensation for the time and services he supplied while working for Caliber, lied to Bourda about the amount of money he was to receive, withheld earned income from Bourda's pay checks he should have received and failed to provide medical and other benefits, the suit states.

Caliber was negligent by informing Bourda that union representation had been arranged, by failing to provide accurate information as to why Bourda was laid off and by failing to provide necessary documentation regarding Bourda's employment, he claims.

In the four-count complaint, Bourda is seeking a judgment in excess of $100,000, plus costs.

He is also seeking in excess of $150,000 in compensatory damages and in excess of $150,000 in exemplary damages.

He is represented by Brian M. Wendler of Wendler Law in Edwardsville.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-0030.

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