The former manager of a California sporting goods store filed suit against her ex-employer, saying two years ago she was forced to sell a firearm to a customer she considered threatening.
The lawsuit says Big 5 Sporting Goods reprimanded Delilah Rios for refusing to release a shotgun to a belligerent customer who had been acting erratically and making abusive remarks toward her and others in the store.
The complaint, filed in Feb. 6 in a Los Angeles court and shared by Rios’ attorneys, describes several interactions between Rios, a certified firearms instructor who worked for the company for eight years, and the customer, identified only as a “middle-aged Caucasian male,” who grew increasingly hostile toward her as she tried to process the sale.
According to the lawsuit, the customer entered the store on Jan. 21, 2015, wanting to buy a shotgun. Yet, due to the late hour Rios only had time to administer a state-required safety test rather than completing the sale. While the customer agreed and passed the test, he waited angrily as she submitted his $15 credit card payment for the test. Ignoring requests to wait, he “stormed past a store employee and into the restricted office area” where he grabbed his license and card from Rios and left.
The man returned two days later, telling Rios he just wanted to buy “any crappy old gun” and selected a 12-gauge shotgun. But as he filled out the required paperwork, he asked a friend to help him. Rios informed him that he was not legally allowed to ask for assistance with the documents. The customer then became agitated, but eventually completed the paperwork and left.
The man returned the next day, but accused Rios of selling him the wrong gun. As she offered to exchange the item and re-process paperwork, the man “became irate and stormed out,” the lawsuit says. Rios notified her supervisor about the customer, who returned on her day off and completed the exchange with another employee.
After the 10-day required waiting period, the man returned near closing time to pick up his shotgun, the lawsuit says. But Rios told him she would be unable to complete the transaction because there was not enough time to complete both a state-required demonstration of the shotgun and the transfer, so she asked him to return the next day. He responded: “This is bullshit. It’s my property. I paid for it, and you need to give me my fucking gun.” At that point, Rios and others in the store tried to calm him, but he grew more aggressive and shouted into his phone: “The bitch manager at Big 5 doesn’t want to give me my fucking property that I already paid for. She needs to give me my fucking gun.” Rios then threatened to call the police if he did not leave, so he left.
The verbal abuse left her “very disturbed, shaken-up, and scared” and then as she did a walk-through of the store after closing she found unused ammo on the floor in the aisle where the man had been lingering. “She was concerned that the customer had brought in live ammunition for the exact firearm he was about to pick up,” the lawsuit says.
The next morning, Rios called Big 5’s corporate firearms department to inform them about the customer and her suspicions that he had brought in live ammunition for the gun he was about to retrieve. The department head ignored her concerns and instead offered to call the customer to ask about the ammo, the lawsuit says. The department head also suggested that they arrange for another manager to release the shotgun to the customer.
When the customer returned on Feb. 6, 2015, he told a cashier he needed to pick up his gun, but when he heard the cashier call for Rios over the intercom, he immediately became belligerent. “I fucking hate that bitch,” he told the cashier, the lawsuit says. As Rios approached, the man told her: “You again. I fucking hate people like you. People like you should not exist. I hope you get fired,” the lawsuit says.
Rios responded by telling the man she would not release the firearm to him and instead offered a full refund, which only enraged the customer more. Both Rios and the customer called police and as they were on their way, Rios called her corporate department. However, instead of helping her, her supervisors reprimanded her for calling them in front of a customer.
The lawsuit says police sided with Rios, agreeing she should not release the firearm to the customer. But the customer was discussing the matter with Big 5’s corporate office, which was trying to figure out a way to transfer him the gun. The office accused Rios of being “emotional” and sent an off-duty store manager to transfer the firearm to the customer as well as offer a $25 gift card for his “trouble.”
Rios reported the incident to human resources, saying “she feared violence from the customer, who now had a shotgun and a grudge against her, and knew her place of work,” and requested to work at another location. But her request was immediately denied, so she resigned on Feb. 7, 2015.
The lawsuit against Big 5 cites four counts of wrongful termination and labor law violations. Rios is seeking damages for lost wages, employment benefits, mental and emotional damages, punitive damages and repayment of legal fees.
Daniel Terrill contributed to the reporting of this article
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