The former director of compliance for iRobot—maker of the robot vacuum cleaner Roomba—claims in a federal lawsuit he was fired for pointing out the company’s violations of state, federal, and international law.
Janusz Pankowski, who was iRobot’s director of compliance from April 2016 to May 2018, filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, seeking $750,000 for lost wages and emotional distress.
In the lawsuit, Pankowski said he informed management of numerous compliance problems with the company’s products over the course of his employment.
Pankowski maintains he alerted management that products were being sold without proper disclaimers required by the Federal Communications Commission; the company continued selling non-compliant battery chargers in California despite being warned by the California Energy Commission; it had not been paying sales tax on internet-based sales in the European Union that could cost the company $2 million; the company had not completed the required registration for internet-connected encryption devices in Russia; and there were non-compliance issues with iRobot products in Germany and India.
“Pankowski’s actions to correct iRobot’s past illegal actions and further illegal actions were not supported by iRobot,” the lawsuit said. “Pankowski’s employment was terminated because he refused to prohibit further illegal action or rectify illegal action that had already taken place.”
The lawsuit says Pankowski was fired while he was on Family and Medical Leave Act leave to recover from an operation. He also said he was the victim of gender discrimination regarding a female employee he clashed with on the job. Pankowski filed a lawsuit with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), alleging gender discrimination against him by iRobot and the female employee. The MCAD dismissed the claim “to allow Pankowski to file the within action in this court.”
Pankowski said he was fired after the company completed an investigation into the female employee’s accusations without interviewing him to hear his version of events.
iRobot, founded in 1990 by a pair of robot scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sells the Roomba robot vacuum, a mopping robot called Braava jet, and last year introduced the Terra Robot Mower. The company recently announced it has sold 30 million robots and pulled in $1.2 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2019.
Via e-mail, a spokesman for the company said, “iRobot takes the compliance of its products very seriously, and they meet all necessary state, federal, and international requirements. iRobot strongly opposes Mr. Pankowski’s claims and will defend itself vigorously. As this is an ongoing legal matter, iRobot cannot provide further comment at this time.”
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