In one of the largest whistleblower settlements on record, the former controller at Playboy Enterprises who spoke out against the company will receive $6 million due to her wrongful termination.
Catherine Zulfer alerted the government to suspiciously fraudulent behavior and additional improprieties when, in 2010, she refused to give top executives bonuses that had not yet been approved by the company's board of directors. She described 2010 as a year that the company had taken a large loss and refused to give the bonuses. When Zulfer told management that she suspected fraud, there was no corrective action. After her suspicions were reported, Zulfers complaint notes that she was excluded from meetings and that other long time employees were being treated in a similarly disdainful manner. Two years later, after multiple attempts to maintain her footing in the company, Zulfer was fired.
Prior to her termination, Zulfer claimed that CFO Christof Pachler pressured her to release the bonuses; when she did not, Zulfer felt that she was being unfairly discriminated against and that Pachler positioned her for failure repeatedly.
A jury found Zulfers termination to be unlawful, and also found that she was discriminated against due to her age, which was 56 at the time, in addition to a number of other factors. As an employee for 30 years, Zulfer believed the company stated they were planning to terminate employees of over a decade or more as a money-saving strategy as a means of covering up their decision to fire her.
A statement from Playboy Enterprises says that the company disagrees strongly with the jurys decision and plans to appeal. Punitive damages may be awarded to Zulfer after Friday, Mar. 14.
Gordon & Doner offers free consultations of whistleblower claims. Contact our firm today if you suspect business fraud.