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Fired for speaking out against sexual harassment, ex-JUUL worker sues multi-billion-dollar e-cigarette maker

Sexual harassment

A former employee at electronic cigarette maker JUUL Labs Inc. said in a lawsuit that executives called her to a meeting about the sexual harassment concerns she’d raised and shouted at her. When she felt threatened and tried to exit, they physically blocked her from leaving the room, she said. That’s according to a Yahoo Lifestyle story.

Employee experiences unwanted sexual advances

Carrie Chuang, former global supply chain manager for the San Francisco, California-based JUUL, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in December against the company.

JUUL officials told Yahoo Lifestyle the allegations were false. Her allegations were without merit and JUUL provides a “safe and comfortable workplace,” the company said.
The multi-billion-dollar JUUL commands over 70 percent of the e-cigarette market, but it’s a market in crisis. It faces the rise of teenage vaping, which public health officials fear could become a new generation of nicotine addicts, and lung illnesses that include over a dozen deaths linked to vaping, according to The New York Times and other news outlets.

Vaping is the inhaling of aerosolized liquid, or vapor, from a hand-held, battery-powered device or from an electronic cigarette, or e-cigarette.

JUUL hired Chuang as a consultant in August 2016. Two months later, Chuang said an executive made “aggressive and unwanted” sexual advances to her.

During a business meeting in November 2017, an employee began “touching [her] buttocks and breasts and kissing her face and ears without her consent,” she said.

JUUL officials reluctant to take action against sexual harassment

Chuang said she reported the incidents to three top JUUL officials. One said to avoid reporting the matter further. Another said he would look into the allegations, but he was very busy.

The third top official to whom she’d raised concerns made things worse. He asked Chuang to sleep in his hotel room during a team-building event.

After rebuffing that top official’s advances, Chuang said she began to hear rumors about herself. She heard talk that she had taken bribes from a vendor and engaged in a sexual affair. All of the rumors were false, Chuang said in the lawsuit.

JUUL began investigating Chuang. Executives said she had downloaded company files and given them to a former employee. That led to a meeting in December 2018, “in a small room,” with Chuang and company executives who wound up as defendants in her suit.

Chuang said she was called a liar. Facing language she felt was “threatening and intimidating,” Chuang said, she felt physically afraid and asked if she could leave.

“No, you cannot leave,” said an executive, who with another official blocked the door.

Employee wrongfully terminated after speaking out

One of the executives fired Chuang during the meeting.

In her 17-page complaint, Chuang seeks a jury trial and punitive damages against the defendants in “an amount appropriate to punish them for their wrongful conduct.”

In response to Chuang’s allegations, JUUL told Yahoo Lifestyle: “This employee separated from the company last year. She raised these allegations several months later, and after an internal investigation, we believe that they have no merit. We are committed to providing a safe and comfortable workplace free of all forms of harassment.”

Contact the Andrus Law Firm in Utah today for help with cases of sexual harassment in the workplace and other employment law issues.

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