LOS ANGELES – A former compliance specialist for Herbalife International of America Inc. is suing the dietary supplements company, alleging she was wrongfully fired in 2022 for cooperating with an internal investigation of another employee’s complaint against the firm and for requesting to work from home to care for her parents.
Roxana Baez’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit allegations include wrongful termination, retaliation, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate and engage in the interactive process and both intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Baez seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
A Herbalife representative did not reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Friday.
Baez was hired in September 2015 and originally worked as executive assistant for Chief Compliance Officer Henry Wang, the suit states. After Wang became Herbalife’s general counsel, Julia Bailey was hired as the chief compliance officer and reported to Wang and in 2018, Bailey promoted Baez to a compliance specialist position, according to the suit.
Bailey was fired in August 2020 at about the time Herbalife reached a settlement with the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which conducted a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act probe into the company, the suit states.
Bailey alleged that her termination was unlawful and accused Wang of inappropriate and unlawful conduct in the workplace, the suit states. Herbalife’ s human resources investigated Bailey’s claims and interviewed Baez, who corroborated some of Bailey’s allegations regarding Wang’s conduct, according to the suit.
Herbalife and Bailey ultimately settled her claims, but Baez’s relationship with Wang became strained, the suit states. Baez continued to work on her projects, but was no longer allowed to coordinate with outside counsel and auditors, nor was she permitted to communicate directly with senior management, the suit states.
Baez also was excluded from meetings where her projects were discussed and she was not allowed to provide reports regarding ongoing programs to senior management as she had done in the past, the suit alleges.
In October 2021, Baez moved to Banning to be near her parents and help with their care, the suit states. But last May, Baez, who had been working remotely since March 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions, was told along with other employees to resume working in the office, the suit states.
Human resources denied Baez’s request to continue working from home or have some flexibility in her schedule so she could tend to her father and mother, the suit states.
Baez took a medical leave in August and received a company-wide email notification about the potential for layoffs within the company, but the plaintiff was assured they would not impact her, the suit states.
However, when Baez returned to the office that same month, she was told her position was eliminated due to budget constraints, even though Herbalife hired three new employees in her department within two months of her termination, the suit states.
“Plaintiff’s termination obviously had nothing to do with budget constraints and everything to do with her having cooperated in the HR investigation into Bailey’s termination and her requests for accommodations,” the suit alleges.
Baez continues to suffer economic damages and emotional distress due to her job loss, according to the suit.
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