Thursday, September 17, 2009


Whistleblowers are an interesting breed. True whistleblowers are courageous, they speak the truth even though it is not in their self-interest to do so. Whistleblowers are not followers, they buck the system. Whistleblowers are not merely satisfied with the status quo, to just get by. True whistleblowers are hard to come by.

We are social animals by nature. We want to get along, be liked, not rock the boat. Whistleblowers act in ways that are unnatural, they take risks and know that they will not just be going with the crowd. It takes a lot of courage to be a true whistleblower.

Whistleblowers are not "snitches." "Snitches" have ulterior motives such as lower jail terms, monetary gain, etc. to accuse another of something he or she may or may not have done. "Snitches" are not altruists, they are in it for themselves. I represent whistleblowers, not snitches.

I am going to tell the stories of some brave whistleblowers whom I have represented. I am changing their names and also those of the employers, but their stories are true. The courageous whistleblowers whom I have represented are:

1. Kurtis* the scientist, who reported shipping irregularities of radioactive materials at the research reactor (yes, that is a nuclear reactor) at which he worked. Incorrect and erroneous shipping and labeling of radioactive materials can have obvious serious consequences, including illness and death. Kurtis should have been hailed as a hero, but instead he was labeled a troublemaker and demoted in his job. Kurtis' whistleblower case was tried before the Department of Labor under the Energy Reorganization Act. I will tell Kurtis' story.

2. Shirlena* and Marley*, were two office workers in a not for profit company. The purpose of the company was to serve physicians in such endeavors such as lobbying for tort reform, promoting continuing education, etc. Both employees discovered the long-term executive director engaged in financial irregularities. Both Shirlena and Marley reported these irregularities to the physician board members. Shirlena was fired. After Shirlena left, Marley discovered pornography on the executive director's computer and reported it to the physician board members. She was forced out of her position. A colleague from the Trial Lawyers College, Rafe Foreman, and I, tried Marley's case to a jury verdict. We began trial in Shirlena's case, but the case was settled in the middle of trial. I will tell Shirlena and Marley's stories.

3. Mary* was happy to get a job with a major pharmaceutical company as a salesperson for a new drug that was in the process of approval by the FDA. Until the drug was approved, she was ostensibly told to sell another drug. However, her boss told Mary and her co-workers to go ahead and start marketing the un-approved drug, which was anticipated to be very costly and was projected to help increase revenue since a major drug had just gone generic. Unfortunately, it is unlawful to market an unapproved drug for reasons that were shown in this case. The drug here was found to potentially be dangerous and got a "black box" warning. Throughout the time Mary's boss told her to market the drug, Mary complained. Mary was ultimately fired. I will share Mary's story.

4. A group of ten nurses and other health care providers were employed in a local hospital in the emergency department. There were serious problems in the emergency department with understaffing and insufficient and outdated equipment. Patients suffered and the health care workers complained. Most were fired, a few were forced to quit, and one was transferred. I will share the story of these courageous workers.

*Denotes not their real names.

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