The Oregon legislature is debating a bill which would protect from retaliation any hospital employee who reports misconduct that he/she believes is a violation of law, policy, or professional standards. Under current Oregon law, nurses already enjoy these protections Senate Bill 237 would extend these protections to all hospital staff.
Continue Reading Oregon Lawmakers Seek to Stregthen Whistleblower Protections for Healthcare Workers

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion holding that a social worker is protected from retaliation for his courtroom testimony about  a former client. The case is Clairmont v. Sound Mental Health and Wilson, No. 09-35856 (9th Cir. 2011).

From 2005 to 2007, Sound Mental Health (SMH) of Seattle, Washington, employed Richard Clairmont as a domestic violence  program manager. He supervised a treatment program for offenders and members of the public.  SMH had a contract with the Seattle Municipal Court. In exchange for providing the services and making regular reports to the Court, the Court gave SMH office space and equipment. Joni Wilson was the Manager of Probation Services for the Court.

In 2007, a criminal defense attorney subpoenaed Clairmont to provide expert testimony in her client’s case.  The client spoke Spanish, and had been terminated by a competing treatment program. Clairmont agreed to provide the testimony about the possibility that the client was treated differently because of the language issue. The Court’s probation office was seeking a court determination that the client had violated the terms of probation such that the court should revoke probation and impose a jail sentence. When Wilson learned about Clairmont’s testimony, Wilson called Clairmont’s supervisor at SMH. Two weeks later, SMH fired Clairmont because of “critical feedback from the City of Seattle Domestic Violence Probation Officers Unit about your performance.” The letter noted that “The program is in jeopardy. They have proposed a stop-referral beginning immediately. This leaves SMH with no option but to terminate your employment effective today.

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit protects social worker’s court testimony

Today the Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB)ARB held its first oral argument in a case under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX). Last November, the ARB gave notice of today’s oral argument, and invited interested groups to submit friend-of-the-court (or “amicus”) briefs. The ARB asked the parties to address issues of how specific OSHA complaints have to be, whether Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) can grant motions to dismiss on the pleadings, and the nature of protected activity under SOX. A prior blog post covered the amicus briefs, including the briefs of the National Whistleblowers Center and Doug Evans. Pictured here are ARB Board Members Luis Corchado, Paul Igasaki (Chair), E. Cooper Brown (Vice-Chair) and Joanne Royce.

Continue Reading ARB holds first oral argument in a SOX case

Dr. Duane BondsOn Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of a sickle cell disease researcher who blew the whistle on improper cloning of blood cell lines. The decision clears the way Dr. Duane Bonds (pictured) to proceed with her claim that the National Institutes of Health fired her in retaliation for blowing the whistle on the improper cloning of cell lines without consent.

This is the first case in which a federal employee will be allowed to pursue a whistleblower lawsuit in federal district court. Dr. Bonds’ attorney is Michael Kohn, president of the National Whistleblowers Center. Kohn said: “This decision expands the rights of some federal workers to pursue their whistleblower claims in federal district courts around the country. Unfortunately, since Congress continues to treat federal employees as second-class citizens this right is only available to federal employees who are able to bring a race, sex, age, national origin or religion claim in conjunction with a whistleblower claim. Otherwise, a federal employee has no right to a federal court hearing.”

Continue Reading NIH Whistleblower Wins Right to Federal Court Trial

Today, President Obama signed the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (H.R. 2571), which contains landmark whistleblower protections for food safety employees.

Highlights of the Food Safety Whistleblower Provision:

  •   Covers all employers “engaged in the manufacture, processing, packing, transportation, distribution, reception, holding or importation of food;”
  • Allows workers have their case heard before a jury

Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Staub v. Proctor Hospital.  I don’t know why I could not find an article about it in this morning’s newspaper. U.S. Army Reserve First Sergeant Vincent Staub worked as an angiography technician for the Proctor Hospital in Peoria, Illinois, for 14 years. You can read in this prior blog post about his claim that his supervisor’s anger over how his reserve duties disrupted the hospital’s schedule led to his termination of employment. The issue for the Supreme Court is whether Proctor Hospital can be held liable under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1984 (USERRA), 38 U.S.C. 4301. The issue is important to whistleblowers as many employers try to orchestrate a whistleblower’s discharge so that they and put forward an unbiased decision maker to claim that retaliation had nothing to do with that discharge. If Staub can win his appeal, it will become harder for employers to get away with such orchestrations.

Continue Reading Supreme Court hears argument on employer liability in Staub v. Proctor Hospital

Nurses and other professional and technical employees of Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia won a month-long strike in which management tried to impose a "gag" rule to prohibit them from speaking publicly about how staff shortages affect patient care. Marty Harrison, a staff nurse and board member of the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and

Several media sources are reporting on concerns raised by scientists about the radiation dangers of CT scans. CT scans delivers the radiation exposure of about 400 chest x-rays. Their popularity for colon cancer screening and other diagnoses has increased the average American’s lifetime radiation exposure seven fold since 1980.  During that time, the number of CT scans performed in the U.S. has increased from 3 million to 70 million. The scientists say that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has failed to appreciate the risk of increasing cancer through radiation exposure.

On Tuesday, the FDA is convening a public meeting about the risks of America’s increased reliance on CT scans. A group of FDA whistleblowers plan to use the event to publicize concerns they say FDA managers have overlooked. The New York Times reports that they have received internal FDA documents showing that the FDA approved General Electric’s application to to use CT scans to screen for colon cancer — over repeated objections of FDA scientists. It reports that Dr. Julian Nicholas said that approving the application could “expose a number of Americans to a risk of radiation that is unwarranted and may lead to instances of solid organ abdominal cancer.”

In an AP story run by the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reports that Dr. Nicholas lost his FDA job after he raised this concern. “Scientific and regulatory review process for medical devices was being distorted by managers who were not following the laws,” Nicholas told his superiors before his job was eliminated.

Continue Reading Scientists raise concerns about radiation risk of CT scans