Bird scooter mechanic says he was fired after raising safety concerns

A former mechanic and charger for an electric scooter-share company is suing his ex-employer, alleging he was fired in 2018 in part because he expressed concern that safety issues with the scooters were putting the public at risk.

Matt Fisher’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, retaliation and defamation by Santa Monica-based Bird Rides Inc. and workforce management company Target CW. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages. He alleges he has been blacklisted from the electric scooter industry.

Bird Rides in a statement said:

“While we are not able to comment on the specifics of former contractors or ongoing litigation, we can share that as a transportation company the safety of our riders, chargers, mechanics and all others who interact with our vehicles is our utmost concern. As a result, we take the safety and maintenance of Birds very seriously and provide thorough instructions on how to safely ride, maintain and care for our vehicles.”

The sudden rise of scooter startups has provided an alternative form of transportation and Bird, one of the biggest of the scooter startups, said in October that it had surpassed 10 million rides since launching in 2017. Long Beach has been running a pilot program for electric scooters, including Bird, since July.

But safety issues have arisen given reports that some people have been injured while riding the scooters.

Long Beach is losing (lots of) money every month that it doesn’t regulate e-scooters

Fisher’s suit states he was hired as a Bird charger and mechanic in February 2017 and by November 2018 was dubbed the top employee in terms of the number of scooters scanned, reported and fixed. He was later given a field operations associate position and assigned to run technical and mechanical tests on scooters, the suit states.

Also in November 2018, a Bird operations specialist issued a memo on the Slack.com messaging service that Bird scooters with missing screws, loose necks and handlebars, missing grips, broken reflectors and other problems were considered “not damaged” and safe for public use, the suit states.

Fisher responded via Slack.com, “It’s hard to watch this neglect. I apologize if I’m out of place here, but being honest is what I’m about.”

The operations specialist replied to Fisher’s statement by saying, “This is what we were told by upper management, we are still making adjustments and figuring things out,” the suit states.

Fisher in turn said, “I’m not going to ignore the damages. I’m not going to put people’s lives at risk,” the suit states.

Fisher was later brought into a meeting with management and told that he needed to stop complaining about the scooters on Slack.com, his suit states.

“This is upsetting people,” Fisher was told, his lawsuit alleges. “Other people are not supposed to know about this.”

The city of Santa Monica requires that each electric scooter be safe, be highly durable and have durable brakes, the suit states.

Fisher saw “broken-down devices laid across the sidewalk, preventing and obstructing traffic,” according to the suit, which includes copies of photos of his allegations.

Fisher says he received an email from Target CW on Dec. 3 stating, “We were informed that your engagement with Bird has ended.”

Fisher “has since been blacklisted from the scooter industry,” according to his suit, which further states he was not hired at a competing scooter company after he was forced to explain why he was fired by Bird and after the publication of a news report in which the plaintiff was interviewed about Bird scooters.

Fisher was told by the prospective employer that he had “ruined his career” and “could no longer be hired,” his suit states.

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