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County contractor ordered to rehire fired janitors, with back pay

NOVA, a company contracted to provide janitorial services at the San Diego County Administration Building, has been ordered to rehire several fired janitors. The San Diego County Office of Labor Standards & Enforcement found NOVA violated labor laws and retaliated against several janitorial workers for trying to unionize. NOVA was also ordered to give the workers back pay.

Sofia Martinez is one of the rehired workers. On Tuesday, she said feels vindicated, and that she is already back to work.

"Yes I already started working and on Friday they are going to pay me all the salary they owe me," Martinez said in Spanish, with a giggle she couldn't hold in.


Earlier this month, Martinez described what happened to her after she and other workers tried to form a union, saying she was forced to scrape a floor on her hands and knees for eight hours, without protective equipment and while using harsh chemicals. As a result, Martinez said, she suffered bleeding to her hands and nose and pain to her lungs that persists to this day.

She said she will continue to fight for the union. "We want a union, so we get better treatment, better pay and more than anything so they treat us with respect," she said. 

In a phone interview, Eleanor Anglin, NOVA's executive operations manager, said, "We are very excited to have the the workers back, and will continue to support and hear their concerns. We have done business with the County of San Diego for over 15 years, we have always been in compliance. We inherited the issues from a previous contractor and have only had this contract for less than 90 days."

Martinez said some coworkers are still afraid of retaliation; they still have the same supervisors. But Martinez said they don't have to worry because she is going to speak up if anything happens again.

She said she was inspired by her foster son to speak up for her rights, and that he was so happy to know she was returning to work that he cheered.


She said from now on, she will never stay silent when she or someone else is suffering abuse at work, saying, "I learned to speak up for myself and everyone so that they don’t abuse anyone else."