LINCOLN — A former employee of the pork production company owned by gubernatorial candidate Jim Pillen alleges he was fired for refusing to participate in hiring undocumented workers and falsifying documents so workers could avoid taxes.
Luis Lucar filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Pillen Family Farms Inc., alleging he lost his job because he wouldn’t participate in company practices he claimed were illegal.
“This case has substantial merit that a jury needs to hear,” said Lucar’s attorney, Kathleen Neary of Lincoln.
A spokesman for the Pillen campaign said Thursday that Lucar’s allegations are “completely baseless and false.”
“Mr. Lucar, a disgruntled former employee terminated for poor performance, is an anti-conservative, pro-illegal immigration activist lying about the Pillen family,” said campaign spokesman Matthew Trail.
Pillen, a member of the University of Nebraska Board of Regents, is the founder of Pillen Family Farms and one of three Republicans who have announced their candidacies for governor in 2022. Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts is term limited and cannot run for a third term.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Lucar said he worked for Pillen Family Farms from 2012 until he was fired in 2019 for “inability to work with our team.”
Lucar, who is from Peru, said that he worked various jobs for the company, and in his position as human resources specialist, he hired workers and dealt with employee-related matters.
He alleged that he repeatedly complained and refused to participate in alleged illegal activities by the company, including hiring workers who lacked authorization to work in the U.S., changing names on government and company documents so workers could avoid paying taxes or child support payments, and misclassifying workers as “independent contractors” to avoid payment of taxes.
Lucar also claimed that company executives failed to address his complaints about discriminatory conduct against some workers because of their immigration status or ethnicity. Later, before he was fired, he alleged he was yelled and cursed at, excluded from meetings and training sessions, and accused of wrongdoing.
Trail, the Pillen campaign spokesman, said that Lucar’s attorney works for a “liberal” law firm led by Vince Powers, a former state Democratic Party chairman, and that the lawsuit by Lucar was a “clear effort by Democrats” to smear Pillen.
Neary rejected that, pointing out that Lucar had filed a complaint about his treatment with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission in April 2020, long before Pillen became a candidate for governor.
Pillen has made immigration an issue in his campaign. His website states that the failure to address immigration reform and enforce immigration laws has created a “national security threat” and “exploits the vulnerable.”