Juul Labs is facing allegations that it knowingly sold more than one million contaminated e-cigarette nicotine pods to consumers.
The San Francisco-based e-cigarette company is also accused of retaliation against its executive who raised concerns about the problem.
Siddharth Breja, the former senior vice president of global finance at Juul, made the allegations against the company in a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.
In the lawsuit, Mr. Breja claimed that Juul totally disregarded the law, public safety and public health when it “sent to market approximately one million mint-flavored e-cigarette nicotine pods that it admits were contaminated.”
According to the former Juul executive, he protested the sale of those contaminated e-cigarette nicotine pods and insisted a recall but the company refused. He claimed that the company also refused to even issue a product health and safety warning.
Juul allegedly fired its former executive for whistleblowing its unlawful business practices
Additionally, Mr. Breja alleged that the company fired him in retaliation for whistleblowing and opposing its illegal and unsafe business practices including the shipment of the contaminated e-cigarette nicotine pods. The company’s reasons for terminating his employment were fabricated and false.
His termination sent a message to other Juul employees that “whistleblowing would cost them their careers,” according to Mr. Breja in the lawsuit.
Furthermore, Mr. Breja claimed that Juul’s then-CEO Kevin Burns led the company in a “dictatorial manner and fostered a culture of silence” until his resignation on September 25, 2019.
Mr. Burns allegedly didn’t care about the health and safety of Juul’s customers (many are children and young adults). The former Juul CEO allegedly stated during company meetings that “Half [of] our customers are drunk and vaping like mo-fo’s, who the f–k is going to notice the quality of our pods.”
“Mr. Burns felt quite strongly about proceeding in a win-at-all-costs, reckless fashion, telling anyone who disagreed, including JUUL’s EMEA President, that there could “only be one king at JUUL,” and that the “king” was Mr. Burns. In another conversation, Mr. Burns stated to Mr. Breja and other executives, “Tell that motherfucker that I’ll take him out of the room and shoot him with a shotgun if he challenges my decisions,” according to the lawsuit.
Mr. Breja asserted in his complaint that Juul violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the California Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act and the California Labor Code § 1102.5. He also alleged that the company violated the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing and the California Business & Professional Code §§17200, et seq.