A former sales manager for a DuPage County dealer of Caterpillar heavy equipment has fired back against his former employer’s legal claims he manipulated sales promotions for his own benefit, and has filed his own lawsuit against the owner of Patten Industries, claiming his ex-boss followed through on threats to treat his departure to another company as “a bad divorce” by launching a smear campaign to ruin him professionally.
In late September, Michael Jaworski filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against Patten Industries and its owner, Garrett Patten, alleging defamation against both Patten and his company for Patten’s alleged actions following Jaworski’s decision to accept an employment offer from a company which had previously been a Patten customer.
“In the months following his departure from Patten Industries, Jaworski learned from his contacts within the Caterpillar Industry that Patten wanted to ‘crucify’ Jaworski and ‘destroy’ Jaworski’s reputation within the Caterpillar Industry, something Jaworski had spent over 14 years building and which was the cornerstone of Jaworski’s ability to earn a livelihood,” Jaworski wrote in his defamation lawsuit.
“To achieve Patten’s goal, Patten, both individually and through his surrogates at Patten Industries, engaged in a widespread campaign of maliciously publishing numerous false statements about Jaworski to third parties within the Caterpillar Industry that were intended, and actually did, injure Jaworski’s professional reputation.”
Jaworksi’s lawsuit landed in court exactly one month after Patten Industries filed suit against him, also in Cook County court, demanding $9 million for alleged misconduct while Jaworski worked for Patten.
According to court documents, Jaworski had worked for the Elmhurst-based Patten Industries for 14 years, beginning in 2001, moving up the ranks to the rank of sales manager.
However, Patten alleged in its legal action that Jaworski had since 2008 abused special financing offers through Caterpillar to help otherwise ineligible customers receive a special deal, and in the process, boost his own sales, commissions and bonuses.
Patten alleged Jaworski’s purported actions have cost the company more than $6 million, and left it the target of a $550,000 lawsuit brought by the company for which Jaworski now works, Beverly Lawn Maintenance. Patten also asked the court to order Jaworski to pay $4 million in punitive damages.
Jaworski has disputed Patten’s accusations, and said all of Patten’s actions are linked to the dealership owner’s desire for retribution against Jaworski for leaving the company.
According to Jaworski’s lawsuit, he told his superiors in 2013 he had turned down a job offer from a competing Caterpillar dealer, but was feeling “burned out” at Patten. At that time, Jaworski alleged Garrett Patten first threatened him, telling him if he left, it would be “like a bad divorce.”
In 2015, Jaworski accepted an offer from Beverly, and submitted his resignation.
Thereafter, Jaworski alleged Patten began reviewing Jaworski’s work for evidence he had behaved improperly. And in the months that followed, Jaworski alleged Patten and others associated with him told others who work in the Caterpillar dealership industry that Jaworski had accepted bribes from customers in exchange for “favorable sales contracts” and had “embezzled money.”
Jaworski alleged Patten also spread rumors Jaworski had left Patten Industries “because he knew that Patten would eventually learn of the Alleged Bribery Scheme.”
Jaworski said he has routinely now received calls and messages from others associated with Caterpillar and Cat dealers asking about these rumors, and they have damaged his professional reputation.
He denied these statements, saying they were “false” and were “made with actual malice and intent to cause Jaworski harm.”
Jaworski has asked the court to order Patten to pay unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
Jaworski is represented in the actions by attorneys with the firm of Kluever & Platt LLC, of Chicago.
Patten Industries is represented by the firm of Schain Banks Kenny & Schwartz, of Chicago.