Partners R. Armen McOmber and Matthew A. Luber and Associate Austin B. Tobin represent Augustin Rivera, Jr. in a CEPA “whistleblower” lawsuit against Hovione, LLC, a pharmaceutical company with locations in East Windsor, New Jersey and abroad. Named defendants in the lawsuit also include Filipe Tomas, Hovione’s Site Manager; Dina Silva, the Head of Hovione’s Human Resources Department; Donald Hamme III, the Head of Hovione’s Engineering and Maintenance Department; and Marco Marques, the Director of Hovione’s Technical Operations.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Rivera was wrongfully terminated in direct retaliation for reporting that various employees, himself included, had serious concerns regarding the screening and prevention of spreading the Coronavirus, especially because there were employees already known to have recently returned from cruises and overseas with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as coughing, sneezing and fevers. Specifically, in late January to February 2020, Mr. Rivera raised serious issues on several occasions about the issue of a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (“PPE”). Further, Mr. Rivera reported that various employees, himself included, had serious concerns regarding the screening and prevention of spreading the Coronavirus, especially because there were employees already known to have recently returned from cruises and overseas with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as coughing, sneezing and fevers. In addition, Mr. Rivera was subjected to retaliation for sharing a pertinent and publicly accessible news article with other co-workers regarding the ongoing health crisis in protest for Hovione’s ignoring of his prior complaints regarding employee health and safety.
Frustrated by Hovione’s refusal to take action regarding his complaints, as alleged in the lawsuit, Mr. Rivera decided to take further action. On March 24, 2020, Mr. Rivera left copies of a March 10, 2020 news article from the website “ROI-NJ.com” on a cafeteria table. That news article was in regard to the appropriate and effective measures that Bayer, a major pharmaceutical company, was undertaking to properly handle the COVID-19 outbreak. Mr. Rivera left the copies of the March 10, 2020 COVID-19 article not only to share and demonstrate to his co-workers what could/should be done by Hovione in response to the ongoing COVID-19 health pandemic plaguing the entire country, but also, as a an objection to the safety measures (or lack thereof) being taken. Just two days later, Mr. Rivera was interrogated as to whether he was the one who circulated the March 10, 2020 COVID-19 article. Ultimately, Mr. Rivera was retaliated against because of his prior complaints regarding the health and safety of employees as well as his circulation of the March 10, 2020 COVID-19 article on March 24, 2020 and quickly terminated from his position in violation of law.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Burlington County Superior Court, alleges violations of, among other things, the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act and Wrongful Discharge in Violation of Public Policy. Mr. Rivera seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
“The allegations are very disturbing. As alleged in the Complaint, after Mr. Rivera expressed his concerns on several occasions about the complete failure of the Defendants to take even the most basic health and safety measures to protect employees during a global pandemic, he was immediately terminated. We stand shoulder to shoulder with our client in exposing this outrageous and unlawful behavior.” R. Armen McOmber, Esq., McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C.