A former Wausau Window and Wall Systems employee has sued the company, alleging it supplied products using “non-compliant materials” to multiple projects, and that Wausau Window fired him for raising the concern with management. The company’s leadership has refuted the allegations and asserts they will be challenged in court.
Michael P. Opela Sr. was employed by Wausau Window from December 2013 to December 2014 as a structural engineer manager, according to a lawsuit filed this week in the Western District Court of Wisconsin. He named Wausau Window, as well as its parent company Apogee Enterprises and other affiliates, as defendants. He says in the complaint that during his employment, he “became aware that Wausau Window had been using materials in its window frames and bolts that did not meet the required specification pertaining to material strengths, specifically alloys and temper.” He claims the “non-compliant materials created a significant safety risk to the end-user, as the materials did not meet code required loads.”
Jim Waldron, president of Wausau Window, told USGNN.com™ in a statement that though the company doesn’t typically comment on pending lawsuits, Opela Sr.’s “allegations are without merit, and they are not new.” Waldron added that Opela Sr. “has previously made these same allegations to a number of federal and state agencies that have thoroughly investigated his allegations and decided not to pursue any of them. Wausau Window and Wall Systems products are safe, and we take pride in the rigorous processes we have in place to ensure conformance with specifications to meet customer and project needs. For more than 60 years, Wausau has produced high-quality, industry leading windows and curtainwall that meet and exceed job-specific requirements. We are actively involved in industry associations helping to lead building code and specification improvements.”
In 2015, Opela filed a separate lawsuit on behalf of the United States against Apogee, alleging it failed to comply with testing protocol regarding certain metal products it supplied. However, he agreed to dismiss the case in 2016 after an attorney representing the U.S. notified the court it wouldn’t intervene.
In the most recent complaint, Opela Sr. says in 2014 he informed his supervisor, Gene Pagel, “that he had become aware that Wausau Window had been using non-compliant materials in its products,” which “created a real and substantial risk of injury or death to the consumer and public; and that the use of non-compliant materials in these products reduced [the company’s] costs for a product that failed to comply with applicable OSHA and other codes which then resulted in Apogee overstating their income and defrauding investors.”
He claims that he brought up the issue with other members of company management, including Waldron, and that he was soon fired for “allegedly not disclosing [a] previous employer to Wausau Window.” Opela Sr. appealed his termination and on the grounds that he was fired for raising the issue of alleged “non-compliant materials.”
The defendants are expected to respond formally within the next few weeks, and until then, Waldron said Wausau “will not comment further on this pending litigation, pursuant to our policy, and looks forward to its day in court.”