A lawsuit has been filed against Sears by several individuals. It is related to a criminal case in which an employee is alleged to have installed hidden cameras in ladies' fitting and restrooms for three years.
The plaintiffs, many of whom were Sears' employees at its North Hollywood store at the time of the alleged crime, claim their employer knew about the peeping tom activities and turned a blind eye.
According to CBS News, the lawsuit was filed in Superior Court on behalf of 25 individuals, including store employees, customers and alleged victims.
Alejandro Gamiz was arrested in connection with the crime on April 12. Several media reports say Gamiz admitted to spying, using up to 60 cameras during a three year period. Some of the videos were reported to have been uploaded online.
Sears Holding Corp., Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Gamiz are named as defendants in the pending lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Sears knew about the spying for a few months and did not inform employees. In an Apr. 19 press release, attorney Michael Alder of AlderLaw, P.C. in Beverly Hills, Calif., announced he'd launched an "informational website" encouraging victims to come forward.
The April press release said, "We want to help any of the female employees and customers of this Sears store who may have been violated by Alejandro Gamiz and let them know they have every right to pursue justice for his actions," said Attorney Michael Alder. "Though Sears had its 175 local employees sign arbitration agreements before notifying them of the violations, alleged victims can choose to opt out of the agreement within 30 days of signing."
The asking of employees to sign agreements purportedly happened about two weeks prior to Gamiz being arrested. The complaint also states Sears warned employees to not speak to the media and opened workers' compensations claims without employee knowledge to prevent a lawsuit, reported Courthouse News.
CBS reported Alder is seeking unspecified damages "on behalf of the plaintiffs, including: negligent hiring, supervision and retention of Gamiz as an employee of Sears, invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress and hostile work environment harassment and retaliation against the employees who have come forward in the case,” according to a Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA) statement. Alder is president of the CAALA.
Alder is alleging Sears "intentionally turned a blind eye" even though Gamiz had allegedly been showing suspicious behavior long before his arrest.
Courthouse News reported plaintiffs say, "Gamiz exhibited suspicious behavior throughout the course of his employment with Sears. Gamiz regularly and frequently purported to be performing maintenance in the women's restrooms, women's dressing rooms, children's dressing rooms, air ducts and crawl spaces when no maintenance was required, requested or necessary. Gamiz would close off access to these areas such that he had the opportunity to drill the peep holes and install the video equipment without interruption."
Sears declined to comment since the case is pending, but company spokeswoman Kimberly Freely said, “But as we said previously and with all due respect to the associates who may have been impacted by this incident, no member of management or leadership in the company had any prior knowledge of the accused’s alleged conduct until it was discovered in our store. At that point, we immediately launched an investigation and turned the matter over to the police."
Gamiz, 27, was arrested and booked for Burglary and for the Surreptitious Filming of Unsuspecting Women, said Los Angeles Police in an Apr. 2012 blog post.
It is unknown how many women and children Gamiz allegedly recorded, but NewsNet5 reported the number could be in the thousands.