Wisconsin residents are likely aware that the German auto maker Volkswagen is facing federal fines that some observers feel could reach nine figures. The manufacturer has admitted to using software designed to help its vehicles cheat federal emissions tests, and a March 7 report suggests that the Wolfsburg-based company have been dealt another legal blow. The reports concern a former Volkswagen worker who claims that he was fired for bringing attention to the illegal deletion of information at a Michigan data center.
The IT worker claims in his lawsuit that Volkswagen continued to erase sensitive information for weeks after receiving an order to cease deletion from the U.S. Department of Justice in September 2015. The man also alleges that he attempted to make his concerns known to the law firm brought in by the Volkswagen board of directors to investigate the matter, but his efforts were thwarted by his supervisors. The lawsuit alleges that Volkswagen’s behavior violated Michigan’s whistleblower protection laws.
Reports of the lawsuit came just two days before Volkswagen’s top American executive unexpectedly announced that he would be leaving the company. Volkswagen has been rocked by falling sales and a wave of negative press in the wake of a scandal that has all but ended its plans to sell more diesel vehicles in the United States. The company have denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit and said in a statement that the IT worker’s wrongful termination claim lacked merit.
Individuals who report fraud are protected by a variety of federal and state whistleblower laws. Attorneys with experience in this area will note that one of the protections is against retaliation by an employer after a claim has been made.