Lam-Quang-Vinh v. Springs Window Fashions, LLC, No. 21-2665 (7th Cir. 2022)Annotate this Case
Lam began working at Springs as its senior manager of global trade in 2019. She learned that three of Springs’s manufacturing facilities in Mexico were inaccurately tracking import and export inventories because computer systems were not properly integrated. While attempting to resolve the issue, Lam came to believe that a product Springs imported (cellular fabric blankets) originated in China and not, as the supplier insisted, in Taiwan and Malaysia. Fabrics originating in China were subject to a 25 percent tariff. She claims that she repeatedly stated that the company would need to pay higher tariffs, was “angrily berated,” and was told to continue classifying the fabrics as Taiwanese and Malaysian. She was placed on a performance improvement plan that cited her failure to adequately address the inventory problem, her failure to supplement tariff concerns with a “risk assessment,” a “solution,” or a “process change,” her reliance on outside consultants; and her inability to communicate concisely.
Law was ultimately fired and sued, alleging that Springs retaliated against her, in violation of the False Claims Act, over her opinion that the company owed the 25 percent tariff, 31 U.S.C. 3730(h). The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of Springs. Springs’s conduct falls short of “harassment” under section 3730(h)(1); Lam has not established a connection between the tariff violations she reported and the decision to fire her.