Terminated whistleblower prevails in lawsuit

Whistleblowers in California and across the nation are often under great pressure to keep their revelations secret; however, this does not mean that they lack legal protection. A recent case involving an employee who exposed an unsafe and inefficient asbestos removal operation in New York is a good example that may encourage whistleblowers to act.

In 2010, the plaintiff was employed with Champagne Demolition as an asbestos removal specialist assigned to a project in the upstate New York town of Alexandria Bay. He noticed deficient asbestos removal and became concerned to the point of returning to the site of the contract, a public high school, to take pictures and collect a bag of asbestos that he showed to his supervisor. The whistleblower was terminated just one day after he reported the issue to his supervisor, and the company filed a defamation lawsuit against him within a month after he was fired.

The whistleblower reported the incident to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which decided to intervene on his behalf. Setting aside the obvious OSHA violation of improper asbestos removal, OSHA and the Department of Labor argued that the man’s wrongful termination and the subsequent lawsuit were egregious situations showing retaliatory conduct against a whistleblower.

In the end, the whistleblower was awarded more than $170,000 in compensation and damages by a jury; this sum includes back pay and legal costs. Wrongful dismissals are common in cases involving whistleblowers. If an employee believes that they have been wrongfully let go due to notifying management of some issue, a lawyer could provide legal representation.

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