The Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (“ARB”) has affirmed an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision to award back pay and compensatory damages to a whistleblower for violations of the retaliation provision of the Safe Drinking Water Act (“SDWA”). In Collins v. Village of Lynchburg, Ohio, Michael Collins alleged that his former employer, the Village of Lynchburg Ohio retaliated against him for making a disclosure to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (“OEPA”) about an alleged violation of the SDWA. In particular, Collins alleged that his employer was using an improper procedure to test Lynchburg’s water supply. The employer asserted that Collins did not engage in protected conduct because his disclosure was motivated by personal animus against his supervisors. The ARB expressly rejected this argument, concluding that “even if [an employee] were motivated by a retaliatory intent in making [a disclosure] to OEPA, a complainant’s motivation in making a safety complaint has no bearing on whether the complaint is protected.” According to the ARB, an employee’s disclosure is protected so long as the complainant “reasonably believe[d] that a violation of the act occurred,” when he made his disclosure. Finding that Collins satisfied his burden of proof and that his former employer failed to provide a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for terminating Collins’s employment, the ARB affirmed the ALJ’s decision in favor of Collins. For more information on whistleblower protection laws and The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Whistleblower Practice, click here.
A new report released by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) reveals that the number of DoD referrals to the Justice Department for contracting fraud and corruption cases have decreased drastically since 1993. According to the report, the Justice Department has received 76% fewer cases in fiscal year 2008 compared to fiscal year 1993, despite the upsurge in defense contracting ($200 billion in 1993 compared to nearly $400 billion in 2008). The CPI attributes the low number of referrals to a number of factors, including shifting priorities, workload increases, and the declining manpower and expertise in the DoD Office of Inspector General (OIG). According to the report, these problems are not unique to the OIG. The number of prosecutions of cases involving defense contracting fraud has also decreased since the Clinton administration due to the lack of “personnel to detect, investigate, prosecute and deter criminal activity impacting DoD.” The good news is that the existing problems are being addressed. Efforts to increase oversight and accountability in the DoD and Justice Department, include:
- Examining the government’s work in combating fraud and determining whether it is sufficient to catch and deter wrongdoing;
- Reviewing and improving government contracting rules;
- Improving coordination among government investigators; and
- Providing specialized training for agents and prosecutors on procurement fraud.
For more information about procurement fraud and The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Whistleblower Practice, click here.