E-cigarette company Juul has been sued by its former senior vice president of global finance for wrongful termination after the employee allegedly raised concerns that the company was selling contaminated pods for its devices. The lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by lawyers representing Siddharth Breja, who worked at the San Francisco–based company’s global finance department less than 10 months.
Breja began working at the company in May of 2018, but alleges he was abruptly fired in March of 2019. The termination came one week after Breja said he raised concerns that Juul was knowingly selling a large amount of mint-flavored e-liquid that had been found to be contaminated. Approximately 250,000 allegedly contaminated “Mint Refill Kits,” equivalent to one million pods, had already been shipped to retailers and were being sold to customers.
The former executive claims that Juul’s senior management was motivated purely by profits and refused to issue a recall over the contaminated products or warn customers about the potential risk. The lawsuit alleges the company’s actions have “jeopardized and continues to jeopardize public health and safety and the lives of millions of consumers, many of them children and teens.”
Breja is suing Juul for retaliation for whistleblowing, wrongful termination, and other violations. The lawsuit seeks damages for lost salary, bonuses and Juul stock, which it values at more than $10 million. Because Breja worked at the company for less than a year, he did not receive company stock that his lawyers claim would be worth “eight figures at its current valuation.”
Juul has denied Breja’s claims. A Juul spokesperson said in a statement, “He was terminated in March 2019 because he failed to demonstrate the leadership qualities needed in his role. The allegations concerning safety issues with Juul products are equally meritless, and we already investigated the underlying manufacturing issue and determined the product met all applicable specifications. The company will vigorously defend this lawsuit.”