SAN DIEGO — A jury awarded $2.1million to a former San Diego Gas & Electric employee who claimed he was fired after he complained that the utility was targeting low-income households with late fees.
David Bryant, who worked for SDG&E for 23 years, said he was fired three years ago for complaining that the utility was targeting densely-populated low-income neighborhoods with hand-delivered late notices. Each notice was worth an extra $9 to the company.
Bryant said he supervised workers who would systematically fan out to deliver more notices with less effort in neighborhoods like City Heights, something that wasn’t done in rural areas or places like La Jolla, Del Mar or Encinitas.
Bryant claimed the company was also charging extra fees to customers who were told their electricity was shut off when in reality it wasn’t.
“It wasn’t right,” Bryant said. “As big as this corporation is, as much money they bring in from other areas of the company, it’s not really necessary to go after the poor that way.”
Bryant said he brought his concerns to his supervisors who “spent their energy and resources fighting me.”
Three years ago, Bryant was terminated. He sued SDG&E and its parent company Sempra Energy. He won his case, the court awarded Bryant $860,00 in compensatory damages and $1.3 million in punitive damages.
San Diego Gas Electric issued the following statement about the case:
“San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) strongly disagrees with the outcome of the trial and we plan to appeal. We believe that the evidence presented at trial showed that we reached the decision to terminate Mr. Bryant’s employment after a comprehensive investigation of allegations that he conducted himself at work in a manner that violated company policies. Forty employees were interviewed as a part of this investigation and it was determined that he engaged in extremely inappropriate conduct for a supervisor. We have numerous channels for employees to report unethical behaviors and all claims are investigated thoroughly. SDG&E investigated Mr. Bryant’s claims and found them to be without merit.”