A former employee of GlaxoSmithKline (“GSK”) alleged that he was wrongfully terminated from his job in retaliation for reporting concerns about potential security threats related to the company’s manufacturing and financial servers. The plaintiff filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company shortly after he was discharged. GSK responded by filing a motion for summary judgment, seeking to dismiss the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (“SOX Act”) whistleblower retaliation claim. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted the motion for summary judgment due to a lack of evidence to support the claim that the company violated any SEC regulations.
Highlights of the Case
The plaintiff had been with the company for 16 years prior to his termination. He was part of the team responsible for the AS/400 computer operating system. In 2011, he noticed that a co-worker had started using uncapped processors, which impacted the way the processors performed. GSK consumers began complaining about the overall performance of the processors after the uncapped systems were enabled. The plaintiff confronted the colleague, and notified his supervisor, as well as the vice president of enterprise systems and technologies. After he did not get the response he was hoping for, he notified the Global Compliance Office about the issue. Ultimately, he filed a complaint with the CEO of GSK. The plaintiff alleged that the company’s 2013 report to the SEC failed to mention any of the performance or security concerns that had been raised. After an internal investigation, GSK found that the plaintiff’s complaints were unsubstantiated.
In early 2014, GSK announced that only two of the AS/400 positions would remain in-house and that the rest would be outsourced. The plaintiff was encouraged to apply for one of those positions, but he chose not to because the language in the memo he received led him to believe that his employment would depend on the outcome of the investigation. After a number of postponed termination dates, he was told on April 8, 2015 that his position was being eliminated and that his last day of employment would be June 30, 2015.
The court ruled in favor of the defendant, holding that GSK disclosed the risks associated with the computer system’s poor performance. The company’s report also noted that the failure to protect important information and sensitive systems could have a negative impact on the company’s financial results. As a result, the court held that anyone with the training and experience that the plaintiff had could not believe that the defendant was in violation of the SOX Act.
Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Advocate for the Rights of Whistleblowers
If you were wrongfully terminated in retaliation for an employment dispute, you are urged to contact the Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, where we represent clients in South Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.