Two former employees of BitTorrent, a file-sharing platform that joined the TRON ecosystem in 2018, have filed a lawsuit accusing TRON CEO Justin Sun and Head of Engineering Cong Li of creating a hostile work environment that led to their termination from the company.
The suit, filed in the state of California and made public last week, seeks $15 million in damages as well as government prosecution against Sun and Li on the grounds of wrongful termination, hostile working conditions, labor law violations, discrimination, and emotional distress.
It further detailed that in terms of compensatory damages, the former employees’ sought $5 million for ‘lost past and future wages and earnings and benefits, including but not limited to back pay, front pay and other monetary relief’. The suit claimed another $10 million in punitive damages based on the proof they would present in Court.
According to the lawsuit, Richard Hall, 50, and Lukasz Juraszek, 28, claim that their frequent objections to prevalent management practices and complaints regarding the applications of their technology forced them to encounter workplace harassment from Sun and Li, and that their firings were a result of discrimination and retaliation for this.
Employees Subject to Verbal and Physical Abuse
The lawsuit further states that Sun pressurized Hall to fast-track software releases for BitTorrent by verbally abusing him. Hall was subject to derogatory and demeaning statements and was threatened with termination if he chose to use his company-sanctioned vacation days.
Li attempted to pressurize Hall into canceling his travel plans without seeking reimbursement, as the Foundation contractually promises. According to the suit, when he chose to travel nevertheless, he was demoted and threatened with statements like “things will end badly for you”.
Hall and Juraszek argue that Sun reinforced a workplace environment where physical and verbal abuse was seen as acceptable. Juraszek witnessed Sun physically hitting Li without repercussions, who in turn slapped, or punched his manager.
Furthermore, Hall and Juraszek were deterred from keeping email records, otherwise documenting their verbal communications or reporting their observations to Human Resources. Both were subject to sabotage in which unknown users logged in using their work IDs and deleted their emails.
Concerns of Unlawful Application of Software Dismissed
Additionally, the former employees’ concerns that the BitTorrent platform was at risk of being used by third parties to host copyright-infringing content and child pornography were summarily dismissed. Their recommendation to retain lawyers for a legal review of the platform and BitTorrent software updates were disregarded despite Juraszek’s investigation that found pirated movies on the website.
In spite of being informed of the risks of hosting unlawful material on the platform, Sun and Li were only concerned with meeting deadlines for software releases. Reportedly, Li lied to the team about obtaining a green light from in-house counsel regarding the concerns raised.
Since its launch, BitTorrent has repeatedly dealt with copyright infringement lawsuits and investigations by government authorities. It is known as a platform which allows consumers to freely download movies, television series, music as well as books.
The suit highlighted the fact that prior to their objections, Hall and Juraszek had never had any negative performance reviews. In fact, Juraszek was promoted with a salary increment.
The former employees were replaced by new recruits from China, who seemed much more amenable to an office schedule of 9 am to 9 pm, 6 days a week. They were also more agreeable to disregarding American laws, and thereby, brushing off concerns of illegal material on the BitTorrent website.
In response to the lawsuit, Justin Sun and Cong Li have issued a statement saying:
“TRON is not able to speak on the details of pending litigation, but what we can tell you is that our customers, employees and the TRON community are extremely important to us.”
The TRON foundation, BitTorrent, Sun and Li have also contested the lawsuit by arguing against the motivations behind the charges as well as their factual substance.
Currently, TRON is valued at a price of USD $0.016 (up by 3.63 per cent from the last 24 hours). It is also recognized as the second-largest DApp ecosystem of 2019 with over 1 million active users and over 290 million transactions.