SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge tossed a case involving a disgruntled Walmart employee who claimed he was fired for revealing a massive fraud by the retail company’s e-commerce division.
U.S. District Court Judge Vince Chhabria handed down summary judgment in favor of Walmart, saying Tri Huynh, a former e-commerce executive for the retail giant, failed to prove he was fired because he was a whistleblower.
“There is little evidence in the record that Huynh raised concerns to Beal about Walmart’s allegedly unlawful activities,” Chhabria wrote in the 6-page order. Beal is the surname of Huynh’s supervisor.
Huynh, who recruited businesses to Walmart’s e-commerce platform, filed suit in March 2018 claiming Walmart committed securities fraud and various other egregious actions of corporate malfeasance and that he was fired when he told his supervisors. The former executive said Walmart was willing to cut corners and engage in illegal practices in its race to catch Amazon in the cutthroat industry of online retail.
Walmart said Huynh was not fired because he blew the whistle on its practices, but was instead included in a 200-person layoff at the company after performing poorly as an employee for several months.
Chhabria agreed with Walmart’s recounting of the events.
“Walmart has produced a mountain of evidence that Huynh was a poor-performing employee, and that its inclusion of Huynh in a significant round of layoffs was unconnected to any whistleblowing,” the judge wrote.
Huynh was credibly accused of sexual harassment and almost fired months before his actual termination, was accused of fostering a hostile work environment, made unauthorized statements to the press resulting in a media ban and received several poor performance evaluations related to his work.
“Huynh presents virtually nothing to contradict any of this evidence,” the judge wrote.
According to Huynh’s lawsuit, Walmart fraudulently inflated the number of vendors on its platform to try and sell investors on the fiction it was keeping pace with Amazon in the market sector.
Huynh said he met with the supervisor to discuss that and the company’s persistent miscategorizing of products that resulted in higher commissions for some vendors. He said he was summarily fired after that meeting.
Chhabria said the record establishing such a meeting took place was rather thin.
“There is also no actual evidence that this meeting, assuming it took place, played any causal role in Beal’s decision to terminate Huynh’s employment,” Chhabria wrote.
Instead, Huynh is relying on the short timeframe between the meeting and his termination, according to the judge.
But Chhabria said Walmart’s rationale for firing the employee means that his claims for whistleblower protections are weak.
“The reasons for Walmart’s inclusion of him in the layoffs are so strong that the short time period is arguably not enough to get Huynh past this initial hurdle,” Chhabria wrote.