Tennessee Trucking Company Agrees to Settle OSHA Whistleblower Lawsuit and Reinstate Employee

Mark Alvis Inc., a trucking company based in Brush Creek, Tennessee, has agreed to pay $30,000 and reinstate a whistleblower who the company allegedly fired because he refused to make an illegal delivery.

On May 4, 2010, the employee injured himself while preparing a milk delivery.  When the company assigned him to make another delivery, he refused because he was tired and ill and did not have sufficient allowable service hours to make the drive the delivery required. When the employee returned to Bush Creek, the company told him to remove his belongings from the site. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that the company’s actions violated the Surface Transportation Assistance Act.

OSHA’s regional administer in Atlanta, Cindy A. Coe, said, “OSHA will continue to ensure that America’s truck drivers’ right to refuse to drive when they are fatigued, ill or in violation of hours-of-service requirements is not undermined.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

The Daily Cavalier Interviews Attorney Adam Carter on Recent $819,000 Whistleblower Retaliation Verdict in False Claims Act Lawsuit Involving Misuse of NIH Research Grants

Last week, The Daily Cavalier, a newspaper serving the University of Virginia community in Charlottesville, Virginia, interviewed Adam August Carter, principal of The Employment Law Group® law firm, on his client, Dr. Weihua Huang’s recent $819,000 whistleblower retaliation jury verdict.

Dr. Huang was a UVA researcher working on a research project funded by the National Institute of Health (NIH) who faced retaliation and termination after reporting improper and unauthorized modifications to the terms of a National Institute of Health (NIH) research grant.

On October 12, 2012, a federal jury awarded Dr. Huang compensation for back pay which accumulated after his termination in November 2009, as well as approximately $500,000 in non-economic damages, including damage done to his academic reputation.  Additionally, Dr. Huang may receive further compensation in the form of court fees and costs and “front-pay”, or funds which would compensate him for the future earnings Huang could have receive had he continued in his position at UVA.

According to Dr. Huang’s attorney, Adam Augustine Carter, the recent ruling could have a significant impact on UVA and judicial precedent regarding the False Claim Act, a federal law that permits legal action against individuals or corporations that fraudulently obtain government funds.

Specifically, according to Mr. Carter, “it’s clear now that the University accepts federal funds in trust for the benefit of all the taxpayers and that the University is not going to be permitted to make changes at its whim without the clear authorization of the principal investigator.”

Mr. Carter further mentioned that this case may not mark the last time the issue arises either, noting that “[the defendants] said they do this all the time and that it’s routine, which tells me that this [ruling] is really going to shake up the way the accounting is going to be done on these NIH grants,” he said.

The article, entitled “Whistleblower wins unfair contract termination suit: Court ruling awards former laboratory researcher more than $800,000, finds unfair contract termination”, was published on October 17, 2012 in the online edition of The Cavalier Daily.

The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.

TheScientist Magazine Features Story on $819,000 Whistleblower Retaliation Verdict in Favor of TELG Client Dr. Weihua Huang

Last week, The Scientist, a magazine for life science researchers and academics, featured an article highlighting a recent $819,000 whistleblower retaliation jury verdict for Dr. Weihua Huang, a former University of Virginia (UVA) researcher and client of The Employment Law Group® law firm.  Dr. Huang alleged that UVA administrators retaliated against him for reporting that his supervisor had altered and misused a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant budget.

The Scientist article quoted Dr. Huang’s attorney, Adam Augustine Carter, principal of The Employment Law Group® law firm, who commented that “this decision is important to the entire [research] grant community because, on these grants, levels of efforts are assigned and the principal investigator is responsible for the use of the money.”

The article, entitled “Court Awards Whistleblower $820,000: A jury finds that UVA wrongfully fired a researcher for reporting that his supervisor altered an NIH grant budget”, was originally published on October 19, 2012.

ABC Feature Story Highlights Misconduct Leading to Whistleblower Lawsuit Alleging Defense Contractor Jorge Scientific Defrauded U.S. Taxpayers

On October 17, 2012, ABC ran a feature story involving two whistleblowers represented by The Employment Law Group® law firm.  The whistleblowers are former employees of Jorge Scientific Corporation, a defense and intelligence contractor with the federal government recently filed a qui tam lawsuit against the company for misconduct they witnessed while working for the company overseas in Kabul, Afghanistan.

According to attorney David Scher, who represents the whistleblowers, “the case represents one of the most egregious violations of the trust the U.S. government has placed in a defense contractor to look out for and protect American interests in a war zone such as Afghanistan.”

The former employees – Kenneth Smith (a decorated former police officer) and John Melson (a former U.S. Marine who currently serves in the U.S. Army National Guard) –brought their suit under the False Claims Act, a law that allows relators such as themselves, to bring qui tam actions against wrongdoers on behalf of the federal government on account of fraudulent activity involving government contracts.

In their suit, Smith and Melson assert that Jorge Scientific failed to meet is responsibilities as a government contractor and engaged in irresponsible conduct involving taxpayer money.  Specifically, the whistleblowers claim that Jorge Scientific’s vice president, Chris Sullivan, encouraged gross misconduct in at the company’s Kabul location that cause the former employees to resign from their positions as security and protection professionals.  Smith and Melson further charge that Jorge Scientific’s executives’ actions compromised the U.S. mission in Afghanistan and imperiled the lives of other company employees, in addition to U.S. and coalition military and government personnel.

The lawsuit claims that Jorge executives repeatedly violated the company’s rules of conduct including: indiscriminately firing weapons and possessing prohibited grenades, and tossing live ammunition into bonfires while intoxicated during parties, thereby causing the bullets to explode and, in one instance, a bullet struck a company employee near his eye.  Furthermore, the suit alleges that Jorge Scientific ignored complaints by U.S. military personnel after servicemembers discovered errant bullets in the nearby community.  Many of these “parties” took place during work hours and were paid for with taxpayer funds, the lawsuit alleges.

The relators – Smith and Melson – claim that for their refusal to participate in this misconduct, Jorge Scientific retaliated against them by isolating them, using racist and homophobic epithets toward them, and remanding that they consume alcohol and illegal drugs, an even physically threatening them during drunken brawls which the plaintiffs avoided.  After this behavior persisted and fed up with the gross misconduct by their employers, Jorge Scientific forced the relators’ constructive discharge from their positions.

“The recorded video shows, without a doubt, the irresponsible and dangerous actions on the part of the Jorge corporation and supports the relator’s charges. We hope this legal action results in changed behavior by Jorge, the US military and other contractors representing American interests,” Scher added.

Part of the conduct described by the whistleblowers can be viewed here.

The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.

 

Law360 Interviews TELG Attorney Adam Augustine Carter on $819,000 Whistleblower Retaliation Jury Verdict for Former University of Virginia Scientist

Last week a federal jury in Virginia awarded an $819,000 verdict to Dr. Weihua Huang in his False Claims Act suit alleging that two University of Virginia administrators retaliated against him for reporting what he believed was misuse of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) research grant.

According to Dr. Huang’s lawsuit, two University of Virginia administrators declined to review Huang’s contract after he raised questions about the alleged misuse of NIH research funds.  The jury awarded Dr. Huang, a former genetics and addiction researcher in UVA’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Science, $500,000 in compensatory damages and approximately $320,000 in wages he lost after he was retaliated against for blowing the whistle.

Dr. Huang’s attorney, Adam Augustine Carter of The Employment Law Group® law firm, told Law360 that the case represented a significant victory for False Claims Act whistleblowers at research institutions who receive federal grant funding.

Mr. Carter told Law360 that “this case should encourage other whistleblowers that are seeing abuse in federal grants to come forward” and that while “it is tough for people to come forward in such situations, Dr. Huang’s courage has set an example for whistleblowers.”

Additionally, according to Mr. Carter, the case “should act as a reminder to institutions that they may not retaliate against whistleblowers who question the alleged misuse of federal grant money.”

Such whistleblowers, he noted, hold federal funds in trust and “employees who engage in protected activity or who question the way the funds are distributed or used cannot be retaliated against.”

The article, entitled “UVA Whistleblower Nets Award In FCA Suit Over Health Grant”, originally appeared in the October 16, 2012 edition of Law360.

 

The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.