The former human resources manager at a Goshen factory has sued the company, alleging she was fired for refusing to hire illegal immigrants.
Taimi Fernandez-Guillot moved from her native Florida to Goshen in December to take the job at Crane Composites Inc., which makes fiberglass sidewall finishes for recreational vehicles. To keep pace with the booming RV industry, Crane has been hiring more workers in recent months at its plant at 2424 E. Kercher Road.
In February, Fernandez-Guillot fired a worker for providing false identification. After the worker told her that he had worked there before under a different name, and that most of the plant’s workers were “illegal,” she launched an audit and discovered “extensive illegal employees” at the plant, she alleges in the lawsuit, filed this week in the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana in South Bend.
In April, her direct supervisor, Divisional Human Resources Vice President Robert Burton, told her to get rid of any copies of employee identifications and proofs attached to their immigration forms, but she refused, the suit alleges. Burton had told her to accept any identification that job applicants provided, saying, “... whatever they give you ... accept then sign the (immigration form) ... don’t inspect ... don’t do anything ... you are not (U.S. immigration officials) ... just sign,” the suit alleges.
But Fernandez-Guillot says she refused to sign new employees under these conditions.
On May 4, she sent a communication to an executive at Crane’s Channahon, Ill. headquarters, “outlining the systemic issues of undocumented workers at the Goshen plant, the suit alleges.
On May 14 at the Lux Cafe in Goshen, Burton fired Fernandez-Guillot, telling her, “you’re just not a team player ... you have burned enough bridges, and our people are not willing to give you a second chance,” the suit alleges.
“In contravention of the public policy of the state of Indiana, defendants terminated the plaintiff for her refusal to engage in behavior for which she could have been criminally or civilly liable for perjury regarding required United States Homeland Security for employee hiring and continued employment,” the suit alleges.
The suit seeks $1.5 million for economic loss and compensatory damages, and $500,000 in punitive damages.
Her Indianapolis attorney, Raymond Hafsten Jr., said Crane Composites is a publicly traded company with a solid reputation.
“I’m not naive enough to think this stuff doesn’t go on, but this company has a very long history of ethics,” Hafsten said. “This is very surprising. I’d like to assume the parent company had its blinders on. As the complaint says, this is pretty bold.”
He said Fernandez-Guillot, of Cuban ancestry, speaks fluent Spanish and had lived in Florida her entire life before Crane recruited her. She moved her son and husband to Goshen for the $90,000-per-year job, and isn’t sure what she’ll do next.
Crane Composites had yet to file a response in court, and an official at its Channahon site did not return a call seeking comment.