On April 6, 2021, Wigdor LLP filed a complaint against Saint-Gobain with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) on behalf of Amiel Gross, a former in-house class action lawyer at the French manufacturing conglomerate, and its current and former CEOs Mark Rayfield and Tom Kinisky. Mr. Gross alleges that Saint-Gobain fired him in retaliation for his protected whistleblower activities in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
In 2016, residents of Hoosick Falls, New York filed a Class Action lawsuit alleging that a Saint-Gobain facility contaminated local human drinking water supplies with a harmful chemical called PFOA. Soon after, two more Class Action lawsuits were filed alleging similar claims of PFOA water contamination in Bennington, Vermont and Merrimack, New Hampshire.
The toxic chemical is part of a class of substances known as PFAS, often referred to as “forever chemicals” because they are not easily biodegradable and persist for long periods of time in the environment and the human body.
From 2016 through October 2020, Mr. Gross defended Saint-Gobain against these PFOA-related Class Actions. As alleged in the OSHA Complaint, Mr. Gross discovered that there were other Saint-Gobain factories where the toxic chemical PFOA was also processed for decades under similar, pollution-generating conditions, such as facilities located in:
- Garden Grove, California
- New Haven, Connecticut
- Wayne, New Jersey
- Mantua, Ohio
Mr. Gross claims he warned the company that it had a duty to fully investigate, rule out contamination of nearby drinking water sources and ensure that these communities were not unknowingly consuming the same toxic chemical.
As alleged, in response to Mr. Gross’s warnings, Tom Kinisky, the former CEO said, “If you look, you will find it. If you don’t, you can say you didn’t know.” When Mr. Gross refused to stop investigating possible PFOA contamination, as alleged, Saint-Gobain retaliated against him by accusing him of “insubordination,” unlawfully terminating his employment and subjecting him to horrific post-firing retaliation that continues to this day.
Statement from Jeanne M. Christensen, Partner at Wigdor LLP:
“Employees that do the right thing should be rewarded — not discarded and retaliated against. Our client did not want to be part of the PFOA legacy problem, he tried to be part of the solution. Sadly, there is nothing about Saint-Gobain’s treatment of Mr. Gross that suggests it cared about anything except the bottom line. We look forward to holding Saint-Gobain accountable for its unlawful retaliation as alleged in the Complaint by our client Amiel Gross.”