Employee Accuses Company of Fraud, Gets Hit With $50K Judgment
Here's something you don't see often: An employee attempts to be a whistleblower by accusing a major corporation for wrongdoing, and ends up owing that major corporation thousands of dollars for defamation. Lesson learned? If you're going to accuse someone of something, don't go running to the media with it until your information has been verified.
It all happened in Racine County, Wis., where Caledonia resident Michael DeGuelle quit his job at S.C. Johnson, grabbed some company documents on the way out and publicly accused the S.C. Johnson cleaning-products company of committing tax fraud, according to an extensive article on Caledonia Patch. Apparently, DeGuelle did a lot of media interviews.
The maker of Johnson Wax and other products was not happy about DeGuelle's accusations, and sued him for taking company documents, sharing them with others and for breaking the confidentiality agreement he signed when hired. In addition, S.C. Johnson sued for defamation -- DeGaulle's accusations against it in the media were not appreciated.
The company asked for, and was awarded, $50,000 from DeGuelle by Judge Charles Constantine in Racine County Circuit Court. The attorney representing S.C. Johnson said the $50,000 was only a fraction of the $150,000 that the company spent trying to repair its reputation. The judge awarded the company $100 for the breach of contract and $49,900 for defamation.
According to a statement made by S.C. Johnson about the case, the company plans to donate the $50,000 in damages to the Health Care Network, a nonprofit agency providing free or low-cost health care to residents of Racine County who are medically uninsured and have a limited income.
DeGuelle, meanwhile, who was unable to prove that the company committed tax fraud, told Patch that he still asserts that S.C. Johnson is guilty of criminal behavior, and believes that Judge Constantine was "in the pocket of S.C. Johnson." He says that he plans to appeal the decision, and is also appealing the dismissal of his federal court case that accuses S.C. Johnson of racketeering.
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