Petco’s National Support Center in Rancho Bernardo. Photo credit: Smith Consulting Architects via Wikimedia Commons

A former employee has sued Petco, alleging the company wrongfully fired him in 2020 in retaliation for complaints, including defrauding of customers and unsafe dog kennels.

The claims in Jeff Murdock’s lawsuit include wrongful termination, whistleblower retaliation, hostile work environment and various state labor code violations.

He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit, filed March 22 in Los Angeles Superior Court.

A representative of the San Diego-based company could not immediately be reached for comment.

Murdock was hired as a pet stylist in November 2010 and last July began complaining about the company’s alleged practice of charging customers for grooming products that were not actually being used, the suit states.

He also refused to offer customers upgrades to grooming services when he knew that the products, including shampoos and conditioners, were not in stock, the suit states.

Petco management was not pleased with Murdock’s actions because “they were focused solely on increasing sales numbers and revenue,” according to the suit.

From 2017-20, Murdock also complained about the alleged unsafe maintenance of dog kennels, including locking mechanisms so rusted that animals could push doors open and get out, the suit states.

“Plaintiff himself and his co-workers witnessed dogs escape this way,” the suit alleges. “This posed a serious safety concern because the escaped dogs could attack other pets, customers or employees in the store.”

Murdock told management at Petco’s Porter Ranch store about the problem, but it was not treated as a priority. The kennels were not fixed for at least another month, according to the suit.

Murdock was suspended Sept. 25, 2020, five days after he brought up the safety issue, the suit states. The company fired him two days later, telling him it was for “violation of policy and procedure,” the suit states.

He maintains though that he was actually fired because of his complaints, and due to his age.

Within the last few years of his employment, Murdock was often called an “old man” or a “father figure,” according to the suit. He is in his 50s, and most Petco employees are in their 20s and 30s, the suit states.

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