A New Jersey man is suing his employer, a national human resources company, claiming that he was retaliated against at work after reporting that he found a camera taped to a urinal in a men's bathroom.
Jason Savage, a client success coordinator at human resources and payroll company TriNet USA, Inc., alleges in a lawsuit filed last week in state Superior Court in Monmouth County, New Jersey, that in July he discovered a "surreptitiously placed" camera on a urinal at the company's office in Iselin, about 30 miles southwest of Manhattan office.
Whoever placed the camera "deliberately positioned the device's small lens to record the genitalia of individuals ... using the bathroom urinal," the lawsuit says.
The camera had the ability to store, transfer and share footage, according to the suit. Savage "naturally feared the worst: a co-worker recorded him (and others) in the bathroom and widely disseminated the footage on the internet."
Savage immediately left the bathroom and invited two fellow employees to inspect the device, the suit says. His direct boss, David Swerdloff, entered the bathroom shortly thereafter to ask what was going on.
Swerdloff ripped the camera off the urinal and told Savage and the other employees that he would file a report with police, then left the office with the camera, the suit claims
He called about 15 minutes later and said he had not gone to police but "stated, in erratic fashion, that he accidentally smashed the camera and in a state of panic hurled the device from his car off the Garden State Parkway overpass," the suit says.
When they urged him to report the incident to police, he told them if they did "everyone 'will get fired because we did not report the incident when it happened,'" according to the suit. "'You do not want to be fired; you have TriNet paying for your school, rent and benefits,'" he allegedly said.
Figuring that his boss was not going to do anything, Savage reported finding the camera to TriNet's internal ethics hotline, which allows callers to be anonymous, and promises they will not be retaliated against, the suit says.
The suit alleges that TriNet opened an investigation, during which Swerdloff told Savage and other colleagues to "get their stories straight" about the day the camera was discovered.
Swerdloff was fired at the conclusion of the investigation. But the company "refused to even indicate whether anyone has contacted or intends to contact criminal authorities" and would not reveal what was found during the investigation that led to Swerdloff's termination, the suit claims.
The suit alleges TriNet "has been fixated with limiting its own liability due to the outrageous conduct of its long-term manager ... rather than protecting and assisting employees victimized by [Swerdloff]."
Following his firing, Swerdloff was "in constant contact with many" TriNet employees, blaming Savage and his coworker for getting him fired.
"Then, out of the blue and just a few weeks after Swerdloff was terminated," Savage and a coworker were told they were going to be interviewed regarding a code of conduct violation, the suit says.
"It was clear the the company ... had attempted to dig up dirt on Savage to justify an otherwise retaliatory campaign. Savage was being falsely accused of misconduct in the workplace regarding matters that never actually occurred and occurred months or even years ago (and never made an issue)," the suit says.
Savage "instantly recognized the 'investigation' was merely an attempt to shift the blame from [Swerdloff's] inappropriate and unlawful behavior to him," even though company officials told him that one had nothing to do with the other, the suit says.
He is accusing TriNet and Swerdloff of retaliation in violation of New Jersey employment law, sexual harassment, invasion of privacy, negligence, and creating a hostile work environment. He is seeking a jury trial for compensatory and punitive damages.
Savage "believed the company — a multibillion-dollar organization specializing in human resources and risk mitigation — would be proficient in handling such a matter," the suit says. He "was wrong," it says.
The California-based public company, with about $3.5 billion in annual revenues, has more than 3,500 employees.
"Incredibly, rather than laud Savage for stopping a predator in his tracks, the company turned the tables on him, subjecting him to a sham investigation ... and engaging in an orchestrated, retaliatory effort to force (his) resignation or set up an otherwise unlawful termination of his employment," the suit says. Savage, who has worked for TriNet since 2015, has always received the highest possible score during reviews, had never been disciplined before, and recently received an award from TriNet, the suit says.
Renee Brotherton, TriNet's vice president of corporate communications, said the company does not comment on pending litigation.
"We are committed to creating a safe, professional work environment for our colleagues and take swift and appropriate actions to investigate any allegation that a company policy was not followed. If policies are found to have been violated, we take appropriate action," said a company statement.
Swerdloff, when reached by phone, refused to comment before speaking with an attorney.
Savage's attorneys, Matthew Luber and Meghan Clearie, called the incidents described in the suit "an egregious and shocking invasion of privacy."
"Public exposure of this case is critical because, as alleged in the complaint, the company was more concerned with muzzling its employees than learning the truth," they said in a statement.