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Former Fuyao exec sues over termination; Fuyao calls suit ‘meritless’

A former executive of Fuyao Glass America is suing the company and its founder, Chinese billionaire industrialist Cho Tak Wong, over his termination from the company, claiming fraud, breach of contract, defamation, discrimination and more.

Dave Burrows and John Gauthier were two top executives at Fuyao when their employment there ended in November 2016.

In that month, the auto glass producer announced a major shake-up of the senior management team at its Moraine plant, saying that Gauthier, who had been the company’s president, and Burrows, a vice president, were no longer in those positions. Jeff Daochuan Liu, a veteran of Chinese industry, was named as the company president.

MORE: Fuyao to raise workers’ pay

The Chinese-owned company said the changes were “intended to improve the company’s operational efficiency.” Liu later told this newspaper that the company had lost about $90 million in two years.

Burrows is a veteran of the Dayton Development Coalition who played a large role in helping to bring Fuyao to Moraine in 2014. At some point, Cho offered Burrows a job with Fuyao.

MORE: Fuyao chairman: 3,000 workers possible in Moraine

In the suit, Burrows said he told Fuyao — when that company offered Burrows a job — that he wanted to “be sure he was compensated through 2017.”

A message seeking comment was left for Burrows.

Dan Curran, former University of Dayton president and an independent board member for Fuyao Glass America, referred questions to Fuyao’s corporate counsel. A message seeking comment was sent to company officers Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday morning, Fuyao released a statement saying: “In November 2016, Fuyao Glass America and Mr. David Burrows parted ways. Unfortunately, Mr. Burrows has decided to file a legally meritless lawsuit. Fuyao will not comment on the specific allegations of this pending litigation at this time. Fuyao will vigorously contest these accusations and we firmly believe that the truth and law are on our side.”

According to a narrative presented by Burrows’ lawsuit:

Chris Feng, then president of Fuyao Automotive North America, met with Burrows at the Dayton Marriott concierge lounge in August 2013 and said the company and Cho Tak Wong “will take good care of you.”

The suit said Cho told Burrows to tell Fuyao “what you want and I will sign it.” Burrows said if he worked for Fuyao that he wanted to be compensated through 2017.

MORE: HBO show highlights Fuyao’s Moraine plant

Cho hesitated because Burrows’ pay request was higher than the pay accorded to other vice presidents and the base pay was higher than the president’s, but Cho agreed, according to the suit.

On Nov. 14, 2016, according to Burrows’ suit, Cho called a meeting at Fuyao where he “falsely stated to those present that Burrows had resigned.”

MORE: UAW makes case to Fuyao workers

The complaint said Burrows was fired that day “without cause and without written notice, and was not given any explanation, oral or written, for his termination.”

Burrows was replaced by Sunny Yiqun Sun, who is Chinese. In January, Burrows filed a charge of discrimination based upon national origin with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In April, the EEOC issued Burrows a notice of right to sue.

Burrows alleges Cho knew that the company’s representation to him that he would work through 2017 was false and that Cho had no intention of keeping Burrows that long. The suit said that in reliance of Fuyao’s representation, Burrows stepped down from the coalition and sold his Coldstone Creamery franchise.

RELATED: World watches as Fuyao pursues historic U.S. investment in Dayton area

Burrows alleges damages of at least $441,908.68 and asks for that amount in compensatory damages and more in punitive damages, attorney fees and court costs.

The suit also alleges breach of contract, promissory estoppel, defamation and discrimination – saying Cho’s statement caused him “ridicule, shame, and disgrace” and adversely affected him professionally. An online business profile said Burrows currently is CEO of Light Source USA in Wilmington.

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