A former lawyer for Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. has filed a federal whistleblower complaint against the company, alleging he was wrongfully terminated for raising concerns about pollution from the company's fluoropolymer operations.
But the Malvern, Pa.-based company called the complaint "baseless" and said it fired the former litigation counsel, Amiel Gross, for violating policies around harassment prevention and other areas.
The April 6 complaint, filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alleges that Gross told the company it needed to do wider investigations of potential drinking water contamination from a compound used in fluoropolymer processing, perfluorooctanoic acid.
The issue first surfaced in 2016 when class-action lawsuits were filed alleging PFOA contamination of drinking water supplies around Saint-Gobain facilities in New York, New Hampshire and Vermont.
A statement from a law firm representing Gross said he defended Saint-Gobain in various PFOA litigation from 2016 through October 2020.
The complaint alleges that he discovered there were other Saint-Gobain facilities where the chemical was processed under similar conditions, in California, Connecticut, New Jersey and Ohio.
Gross said he told the company it needed to investigate those facilities but said that Saint-Gobain's CEO at the time, Tom Kinisky, told him: "If you look, you will find it. If you don't, you can say you didn't know."
Gross alleges the company unlawfully terminated him when he "refused to stop investigating possible PFOA contamination."
But Saint-Gobain, which has its global headquarters in Paris, sharply disputed Gross's allegations, saying in a statement that his complaint includes "many false allegations."
"First, the conversation Mr. Gross alleges with former CEO Tom Kinisky never happened," it said. "Second, despite access to multiple ethics hotlines and numerous opportunities to raise concerns directly to incoming CEO Mark Rayfield and other senior leaders, Mr. Gross did not do so."
The company said its work in multiple locations indicates it takes remediation seriously and it pointed to work around one of the locations that Gross identified, in Wayne, N.J., under guidance from New Jersey state officials.
"There are numerous publicly available documents and even newspaper notices that show the work being done in Wayne and given his position in the company at the time, Mr. Gross was fully aware of these actions," Saint-Gobain said.
Gross is represented by the high-profile Manhattan law firm Wigdor LLP, which has represented people involved in cases against Harvey Weinstein and French politician Dominique Strauss-Kahn.