Denise Rock, a former salesperson with Lifeline Systems, has sued the company claiming that she was unfairly terminated for raising concerns over allegedly fatal product faults. It’s alleged that the Philips subsidiary began discriminating against her when she reported to company lawyers that a medical alert device manufactured by another subsidiary, Health Watch, was likely the source of a fire that killed a number of users.
In this suit, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Boston, Ms. Rock says she was let go from the Framingham-based company in June 2012 shortly after filing discrimination charges with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) and with the US Equal Employee Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The complaint contends that in September 2007, Ms. Rock learned from a manager at Health Watch about a user of the medical alert device dying in a fire likely caused by the equipment. There were also reports that six other persons (subscribers) had died under similar circumstances. The complaint states further:
Ms. Rock discovered that there were problems with the transmitting devices … For a variety of reasons, the transmittal devices had (and may still have) a tendency to overheat, catch fire and cause the homes of elderly residents to be engulfed in fires. On many occasions these fires have resulted in the deaths of the elderly subscribers. However, in many cases the cause of the fires was hidden by the fact that the home and the device had been destroyed by the fire.
The complaint alleges that Ms. Rock immediately reported the issue relating to the death to company lawyers, one of whom was the Philips Ethics Officer. Ms. Rock was allegedly subjected to discriminatory practices for a period of time before she was finally let go. Before her being fired, she had complained to Philips’ lawyers that she was being retaliated against for reporting the fire deaths to the company.
After first reporting her findings to company lawyers, it appears that Ms. Rock continued to receive reports of injuries. The complaint claims that in early 2009 she “became aware that at least one patient had died due to being strangled by a Lifeline cord.” It’s alleged that in October 2009, another salesperson informed her that units owned by Philips Lifeline’s (another subsidiary) “also had issues with catching fire” and were the subject of a report. It appears further that Ms. Rock made other attempts to inform the company that Philips Lifeline units were causing fires, and deaths. Ms. Rock was ultimately fired. It will be most interesting to see how this case works out. If the allegations in this suit are true, this company may be in “serious trouble.” Stay tuned!
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