The man behind the class action lawsuit against Appleton-based Pierce Manufacturing says the company is stifling his efforts to inform co-workers of their rights, but momentum with the suit, which claims the company owes workers years of back pay, seems to be building.
"The fact that we've had hundreds of people join in the lawsuit at this early stage tells me that workers are willing to stand up for their rights," said employee Eric Ehmann.
But he says it hasn't been without push back from the company.
"Pierce has been telling employees that they don't have to join the lawsuit, and that they can just wait to get notification from the court, and they've also been telling us not to talk about it at work."
So Ehmann set out to inform co-workers of their rights.
"Including the fact that the employer is not allowed to retaliate against us for joining a lawsuit, or filing a lawsuit, or being a part of a lawsuit."
He started passing out flyers at work on Monday, during non-work hours, with information regarding the litigation and how to join the suit.
"This morning when I was putting flyers in one of the break rooms during my break, I was told by HR that I was not allowed to do that, and they confiscated all of the forms that I had placed [out]."
"If a company were to take an action against an employee just because they filed some sort of complaint or signed onto a lawsuit, then that could be considered retaliation," explained attorney James Walcheske.
Not all employees are on board, however. One worker, who chose to remain anonymous, told NBC26 that the lawsuit is creating a hostile work environment and that Ehmann is a "vengeful" employee.
Ehmann says, "I think that for the typical worker, it's scary to stand up for your rights sometimes, if you feel like your job could be on the line."
It's a reputation that Ehmann says he's willing to risk.
The lawsuit is currently working its way through federal court in Green Bay.
NBC26 once again reached out to Pierce Manufacturing and its parent company, Oshkosh Corporation, on Monday who says the company does not comment on pending lawsuits.