A federal jury awarded whistleblower Paul Blakeslee $3.5 million after finding that his former employer fired him for reporting suspicious dealings by a manager of the company’s maintenance work on Alaskan military bases.
The verdict was one of the largest in an employment case in Alaska history, Mr. Blakeslee’s lawyers said, and included $2.5 million in punitive damages. After supplemental awards by the court, the final value of the verdict will likely pass $4 million.
Mr. Blakeslee had worked for Shaw Environment & Infrastructure Inc, a Louisiana-based contractor for the U.S. Army. The jury found that Shaw fired him for reporting that the other manager was billing the Army at inflated rates for equipment leased from his own company. Shaw claimed the firing was independent, but the jury called it retaliation and said it violated the False Claims Act.
The jury also found that Shaw discriminated against Mr. Blakeslee because of his age — 71 at the time — and fired him for reporting that discrimination, too.
After a 12-day trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska, Mr. Blakeslee won $454,000 in back wages, $486,000 for emotional distress, and $2.5 million in punitive damages. He told the Anchorage Daily News that, at age 76 and facing a likely appeal, he doesn’t expect to see much of the award money — but he hopes his children will. “I was just interested in vindication,” he said.
Shaw’s parent company was acquired this year by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company N.V., a multinational contractor and engineering firm. The other manager was ultimately fired.
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.