I write to you today on behalf of myself and my colleague, Norman Massengale. We are firefighters that served together in Rota Spain, under a contract held by Vectrus, Inc. (“Vectrus”), a three billion-dollar publicly traded U.S. Department of Defense (“DOD”) contractor that you now lead as chief executive officer.
My colleague and I were terminated by Vectrus in Spain for allegedly trafficking in arms (“TIA”)—something that Vectus now admits was categorically false. See Civil Case No. 1:18 cv-02548 Burton et al v. Vectrus, Inc. et al in the District Court of Colorado (“Case”); Doc. 50 pp. 4-5. Even though Vectrus has admitted, under penalty of perjury, that my colleague and I did not traffic in arms (i.e. stating “Vectrus does not contend that Plaintiffs violated its International Traffic in Arms and Security Policy…Vectrus contends that Plaintiffs violated its Code of Conduct and one or more Human Resources policies.”) our respective termination letters do in fact allege that we engaged in trafficking in arms, stating in relevant part as follows:
The purpose of this letter is to notify you that your employment with Vectrus Systems Corporation is terminated, effective immediately (27 November 2017) IAW HR P&PM 3-6 Rules of Conduct CHR P&P 3-6 (a) (25) Violating Vectrus compliance-related policies including, but not limited to, Vectrus International Traffic in Arms and Security Policies, Harassment Policies and the Vectrus Corporate Code of Conduct. [Emphasis Added].
As Vectrus’ position is that we “violated its Code of Conduct” and “Human Resources Policies,” why do our termination letters say we violated “Vectrus International Traffic in Arms and Security Policies”? This is a question that has plagued me and Mr. Massengale for over two years. There can be no doubt that any reasonable prospective employer would read this language and conclude that my colleague and I had engaged in criminal, or pseudo-criminal conduct, and thereby have cause to deny us employment.
I personally lost a firefighter job, after months of unemployment, after producing my Vectrus termination letter at my prospective employer’s request. I was between a rock and a hard place. If I didn’t produce the letter, they would find me uncooperative at best, and likely not hire me; if I did produce it, they would think I had “trafficked in arms” and likely not hire me. I produced the termination letter and the job offer was promptly rescinded.
It is my understanding that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) – my current employer – decided to offer me a position only after I informed them that the TIA allegation was being disputed in civil litigation. See Case No. 1:18-cv-02548. Norman and I feared every day that we were being investigated for these alleged criminal acts and that we could possibly be arrested based on the termination letters we received from Vectrus.
In short, I am only employed today because I expended my blood and treasure on needless civil litigation because of Vectrus’ wanton human resources policy of intentionally using the TIA language, even though it has no relevance to the underlying reasons for termination. We are aware, through discovery, that Vectrus has used this language in at least nine other instances. This, by definition, is not a one-off mistake. There are only two inferences that a reasonable person (e.g. a prospective juror) could draw: (1) Vectrus’ Human Resources engages in “reckless disregard of the truth”; or (2) Vectrus intentionally uses this language to destroy the careers of whistleblowers, thereby sending an unequivocal message to other would-be truth-tellers: “engage in this conduct and this is what will happen to you.”
This is the canonical example of the mighty stepping on the weak. Vectrus understands that most terminated employees do not have the financial resources to take on a publicly traded company, thereby making it easy for Vectrus to engage in predatory conduct, conduct that will largely go unchallenged. I likewise do not have the financial resources to fight Vectrus. Nonetheless, I was raised by God-fearing parents, to stand and fight for my rights. My wife and I, after praying on it, decided to expend a significant part of our savings to clear my good name, and that of my colleague. It was, and remains, with a large degree of trepidation that we engaged in this journey.
Further, we stand ready to fight the good fight, in part, because our counsels also have financial skin in the game—having agreed to take on this case because their collective consciences were shocked when they learned of the TIA language in our termination letters. Our counsels did not seek us, we sought them, after learning, using publicly available information, that they had previously litigated against Vectrus on behalf of two veterans whose images were allegedly wrongfully misappropriated by your company.
No, we were not fired for trafficking in arms. We were fired because my colleague and I engaged in whistleblowing activity that has largely been corroborated by subsequent Air Force investigations. See Case No. 1:18-cv-02548 Doc. 50. We would be pleased if Vectrus demonstrated a modicum of decency and expunged the TIA language from our respective termination letters, providing either letters that are “neutral” as to disputed/challenged reasons for termination; or, in the alternative, that Vectrus has the courage of its convictions and list the real reasons for termination, disputed as they may be, instead of patently false ones.
We recently spent approximately six (6) weeks, in DOD sponsored mediation attempting to mediate our issues with Vectrus, to no avail. We also recently engaged in mediation with the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, wherein we are appealing a writ of garnishment (“Writ”), that Vectrus has obtained from the District Court of Colorado (“DCCO”). Mind you, Vectrus sought and perfected this Writ while mediation with the DOD was ongoing—in an obvious scorched earth attempt to bully me and my colleague. We will not be bullied. We will not be silenced. We are currently preparing to refile our claims in the DCCO to continue the effort to clear our good names.
Vectrus, the organization that you lead, apparently has no interest in resolving this dispute, short of the blood sport that is euphemistically called “litigation”—something that all hard-working Americans that have ever had the opportunity to engage in quickly understand, is a “pay-to-play” system that favors the wealthy and the well-connected. So be it. However, Vectrus can fight that fight while at the same time acknowledging and correcting the wrongdoing to which it has already admitted.
At this time when, as part of FEMA, I am on the front lines in Northern California, foregoing shelter in place with my family and exposing myself to contagion, along with my colleagues, and the valiant doctors and nurses who place themselves at risk to protect others from COVID-19, while your company continues to pursue garnishment of my wages, further forcing me to take additional precious resources from my family to preserve my ability to make a living going forward (i.e. by clearing my good name and defending the garnishment). If you were in Northern California, I would be fighting for you and your family regardless of this callous indifference.
Mr. Massengale and I are not asking for handouts. We are not looking for a free ride. We are not looking to win the “litigation lotto.” We are both proud veterans of this country’s armed forces. Vectrus cannot, simultaneously, be for America and against Americans. We never trafficked in arms. We never engaged in any criminal or pseudo-criminal conduct. Vectrus now admits as much. We implore you, at a minimum, to have Vectrus do the right thing and expunge the TIA language from our respective termination letters. Please end this nightmare. It is unbecoming of an organization that purports to serve America.
Please refrain from garnishing my wages. Has Vectrus no shame, no moral compass, no sense of decency?