Category: Whistleblower

Walmart whistleblower to receive $31.2mil settlement for wrongful termination

A New Hampshire woman by the name of Maureen McPadden was terminated from Walmart in 2012 – after 18 years of service to the retail mogul. You may be wondering, what could someone do to warrant termination after so many years with a company? Well, McPadden was terminated for (and here’s where it gets interesting) losing her pharmacy key…according to her former employers.

McPadden subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging her termination was actually the result of retaliation for whistleblowing, gender discrimination, and disability discrimination. The complaint alleges that McPadden made several complaints to management and outside entities that there were not enough properly trained employees to fill orders in a safe and efficient manner. However, all of her efforts were ignored. McPadden and her counsel assert that her protestations were part of the reason she was terminated, and management was looking for a reason, any reason, to get rid of her. Additionally, there was evidence that a male pharmacist also lost his key (after McPadden’s termination) but he received a “level one coaching”, while McPadden received a more severe punishment. Finally, McPadden’s termination occurred less than two months after she had returned from stress leave (during which, her manager announced the plaintiff’s prescription to co-workers, resulting in an additional charge of privacy violation).

After a five day trial, the verdict was announced in favor of the plaintiff, awarding her over $31mil. The breakdown is as follows:

“$15 million in punitive damages on her Title VII gender discrimination claim, and another $15 million in enhanced compensatory damages under the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination (NHLAD). In addition, the jury awarded the pharmacist $164,093 in back pay, $558,392.87 in front pay, and $500,000 in compensatory damages. “

Walmart is no stranger to employment lawsuits – from wage and hour disputes, to discrimination and harassment allegations. The company is currently dealing with two other suits which claim the plaintiffs faced sex discrimination.




Metrolink Employee Blows the Whistle

Last month, a former Metrolink employee sued them transportation provider for whistleblowing, retaliation, and wrongful termination claims. The employee, former chief auditor Barbara Manning, named the Southern California Regional Rail Authority in the suit. The other defendants included several local politicians and a state legislator.

Manning alleges that she and her audit team found several irregularities, including unapproved wire transfers of funds, discrepancies between cash collected and that reported, and unauthorized salary increases for security guards. The former audit lead called all these factors, “high fraud indicators” in her lawsuit.

She further alleges that Metrolink engaged in further unlawful behavior that put the train riders at risk. While the train provider had to cut back on jobs and increased others’ salaries, the lower presence of onboard guards resulted in an increase of assaults on riders.

After she reported her facts and findings to the board members, they accused her of “causing safety problems for the railroad.” Additionally, they falsely accused her of trying to issue fake and inaccurate reports. These accusations resulted in her eventual termination.

Manning alleges the Metrolink board fabricated issues and twisted her words to create pretext for her termination. One of the board members and a politician named in the suit called the claims “completely baseless” and intended to “seek my redress for malicious prosecution.”

Source: LA Times

Violent Jobs: Police Officers, Boxers…Healthcare Workers?

In 2009, an emergency room nurse at the Ventura County Medical Center encountered a violent and frightening patient who was only subdued after an equally violent counter. Around 2am, a man entered the ER, brandishing a pair of scissors as a weapon. He was naked and drunk, covered in blood. He confronted and laughed at two nurses, then chased them around the department.

In order to arrest the attacker, two police officers and to use a Taser against him. The man finally fell after three zaps. After the violent incident, one of the nurses involved kept count every time a patient got violent, or even threatened a hospital worker. The count was astonishing; on average, medical personnel were attacked at least one to two times a day.

This medical center is not unique in its findings. Hospital healthcare workers are often confronted with violent behavior, assaults, and threats against them from patients. The Labor Code seeks to mitigate these occurrences, with a new addition found in Labor Code §6401.8.

As per  code, hospitals must implements a workplace violence prevention plan to protect personnel from “aggressive and violent behavior.” These plans must be realized by July 1, 2016. Plans must include annual educational training for personnel, resources for employees who are coping from violent incidents, and a system of responding to incidents.

By January 1, 2017, hospital divisions must “in a manner that protects patient and employee confidentiality, shall post a report on its Internet Web site containing information regarding violent incidents at the hospitals, that includes, but is not limited to, the total number of reports, and which specific hospitals filed reports…”

Source: California Labor Code §6401.8 & LA Times

A Picture with Snoop Dogg Gets You Dropped Like It’s Hot

Texas State Trooper, Billy Spears, was working an off-duty security job last year at the Austin Music Festival. During one of the shows, Snoop Dogg (birth name Calvin Broaddus) posed for a photo with Spears, the rapper’s arm slung over guard’s shoulder. Snoop posted the photo online with the caption, “Me n my deputy dogg.”

Spears’ superiors saw the photo and disciplined him for taking the picture. Snoop Dogg apparently had a criminal record for drug-related charges and the department saw the photo as a bad representation of the force. Spears, however, contends the reprimand for the photo was mere pretext for an internal complaint he made against another law enforcement official.

In a whistleblower lawsuit that was filed this week, Spears alleges the department was retaliating against him for “asserting his rights and complaining about alleged bullying by an Alcoholic Beverage Control officer.” Spears had been detained for carrying alcohol, while off duty, at a concert.

The suit was filed in Travis County, Texas and seeks unspecified damages. The Department of Public Safety, the entity that was named in the suit, declined to provide any further details or to comment on the case.

Source: ABA Journal

City of San Francisco Getting a Hefty Bill

Kelly O’ Haire joined the San Francisco Police Department in 2006 as an attorney. She had previously served for ten years as a deputy district attorney in Marin County. At the time of her hire with the SFPD, the department was headed by Police Chief Heather Fong.

In 2009, a deputy police chief, Greg Suhr received a call from a female friend who alleged that her boyfriend had battered and chocked her. While Suhr encouraged her to make a formal police complaint, he failed to comply with the SFPD’s policy since he did not attempt to arrest the female friend’s boyfriend.

Enter O’Haire, whose prime responsibility was handling disciplinary cases for the department. She filed a complaint with the Police Commission; in her findings, she urged the department to fire Suhr because the situation was handled poorly. Suhr had a previous record from a criminal charge involving an assault and battery cover up by off-duty police officers. Suhr was demoted by Police Chief Fong.

During the pending disciplinary case against Suhr, Fong retired her post. She was replaced by George Gascó who was elected district attorney two years later. In 2011, Suhr was back in the hierarchy and appointed police chief by the mayor.

O’Haire alleged that once Suhr transitioned into the leadership role, he swiftly retaliated against her for filing that report in 2009. Suddenly, O’Haire was disciplined for bad performance to the point of her termination. She was shamed in the last weeks at her employment; the city’s attorneys accused that she had no legal basis for bringing a claim against Suhr for wrongdoing in 2009.

After years in negotiations and litigation, the city chose to settle the case right before jury selections were set to begin. San Francisco agreed to pay O’Haire a settlement of $725,000 but did not admit to any wrongdoing.