Steven Trzaska alleged the company violated New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Protection Act, which shields employees from retaliatory actions by their employers when they refuse to perform illegal or unethical actions.
But any assertion that a violation of a rule of professional conduct occurred or was imminent “is wholly undermined” by Trzaska’s testimony, the court said.
Trzaska conceded that he never filed a fraudulent application with the Patent and Trademark Office, and was never told to file an application he considered baseless, the court said.
Trzaska’s disagreement with the company’s desire to file a specific number of patent applications per year “cannot, without more, sustain a CEPA claim,” the court said.
The complaint alleged that general attorney Rules of Professional Conduct and specific rules set by the Patent and Trademark Office bar attorneys from filing frivolous or bad-faith patent applications or from knowingly making false statements.
Trzaska complained to L’Oréal management that he couldn’t meet the company’s quota without having to file applications he knew would not succeed. He refused two severance offers and then was fired.
Judge Susan D. Wigenton issued the opinion.
Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer represented Trzaska. K&L Gates LLP and Bowman & Brooke LLP represented L’Oréal.
The case is Trzaska v. L’Oréal USA, Inc., D.N.J., No. 15-cv-02713, unpublished 10/23/20.