The fired human resources manager at Starkey Laboratories, indicted on charges relating to fraud and embezzlement involving his former employer, has sued for breach of contract.
Larry Miller was fired in September 2015 by Starkey's majority owner Bill Austin. In fall 2016, Miller — along with fired President Jerry Ruzicka and fired Chief Financial Officer Scott Nelson and two business associates — was charged with allegedly helping to embezzle more than $20 million in funds from the Eden Prairie-based hearing aid manufacturing firm.
Miller and the others pleaded not guilty. A hearing in the criminal case is scheduled to begin in early 2018. Miller filed his breach of contract lawsuit last week.
Starkey officials in a statement Monday pointed to the charges alleging he was part of a group "carrying out a long-running criminal conspiracy to steal from our company."
"We are entirely confident that justice will prevail and that Mr. Miller's baseless civil action will ultimately be dismissed after the criminal proceedings have run their course," the statement said.
Miller's attorney, John Fabian, said Monday he could not comment on Miller's lawsuit.
In the complaint, Miller said that he had worked for Starkey since 1987 and had a valid employment contract that was signed in 2006. The lawsuit claims Starkey violated the contract when it fired Miller "without an important reason." It went on to say that Starkey "failed to keep its promises" to Miller.
The lawsuit claims the employment contract required Starkey to pay Miller his salary and that he was also due long-term service plus a "loyalty bonus" that amounted to 15 percent of his regular salary.
Miller said Starkey breached its contract and that as a result, he incurred damages in the form of lost compensation that were "in an amount greatly in excess of $50,000."
Miller's lawsuit is the fifth wrongful termination/breach of contract lawsuit filed against Starkey. Two of those lawsuits — one filed by former operations manager Keith Guggenberger and the other by Julie Miller, a former executive assistant and Larry Miller's wife — were settled last month. Starkey declined to discuss the terms of the settlements or what it paid.
Another wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Ruzicka has been put on hold until after the criminal case against him proceeds. A fifth wrongful termination lawsuit — filed in 2015 by a high-level executive dealing with Starkey's philanthropic efforts — also has been settled.