In the latest chapter of the VW scandal, which we first blogged about last year, a former Volkswagen Group employee is suing the company for wrongful termination and violation of Michigan whistleblower law.
Plaintiff Daniel Donovan, who was a technical project manager within the U.S. unit in Michigan, claims that despite the Department of Justice’s legal hold, emissions-related documents containing data continued to be deleted for three days after. And when he brought his concern to the attention of his superiors, including in-house lawyers, instead of being praised for attempting to help his company comply with the hold and prevent “significant legal sanctions,” he was “brushed off” and then fired.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Donovan claims that in addition to data deletion, required backup disks of information were also not preserved at VW. And according to Courthouse News, the plaintiff states in his complaint that he was also terminated because the company believed he was going “to report the spoliation of evidence and obstruction of justice to the EPA and/or the United States Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or some other public body.”
This lawsuit and the forthcoming sanctions underscore the importance of having a sound legal hold process in place. A company should ensure that its employees understand the hold’s instructions and the consequences for not following them.