According to a March 23rd article from Fortune, troubled retailer J C Penney is facing a whistleblower lawsuit from a disgruntled employee who claims the company was systematically overcharging customers. Legal analysts point out that former CEO Ron Johnson and other execs could be compelled to testify if the suit goes to trial.
Details on the J C Penney whisteblower complaint
The whistleblower lawsuit involves a former employee, Robert Blatchford, who filed a claim based on Florida’s Private Whistleblower Act.
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Blatchford worked full time in the custom decorating department at Penney’s St. Petersburg store between 2007 and 2009, and then again on a part time basis from late 2012 to the summer of 2013. He claims his manager (and later, the company) retaliated against him when he pointed out his store was charging full price for some items on sale and collecting sales tax on nontaxable items.
In the suit, Blatchford claims he notified J C Penney execs about the problem, sending emails to CEO Johnson and HR head Dan Walker. Both men said they would investigate the situation, according to emails seen by Fortune.
Of note, the emails make it clear that the company at least undertook a cursory examination of the allegations.
However, Blatchford was unhappy with the vagueness of the firm’s plan to correct this fleecing of customers. He decided to go public and made an appearance on the Today Show in the summer of 2013.
The company then fired Blatchford and sued him for theft of trade secrets. However, in September 2014, J C Penney management changed their minds and dropped the suit.
J C Penney declined to comment on the pending whistleblower lawsuit., citing its policy to not discuss active litigation.
Statement from Blatchford
Blatchford claims his reputation has been sullied. He notes he has been unemployed since he was fired from Penney’s. Back in February, he filed an arbitration claim against the firm saying he was retaliated against for speaking up about the serious problems he saw. “I was, (am), clearly ‘war-weary’,” Blatchford wrote in an email to Jennifer Reingold of Fortune, “but I have to be honest here, I can’t just let this end without proper vindication of my name, I am not a ‘rat.’”