On Tuesday, March 27, 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court made a forceful
unanimous ruling regarding damages in whistleblower cases. Whistleblowers
who were fired or retaliated against for reporting government waste could
now seek to recover noneconomic damages. According to the state high court,
they believe that the Whistleblower Law already in place protected all
damages, including noneconomic damages such as mental anguish, reputation
damage, or embarrassment. In doing so, they affirmed a $1.6M verdict on
noneconomic damages. How did they arrive at this ruling?
A former financial reporting manager with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission
brought the claim. He worked for the turnpike for a decade until he was
fired from his job in 2008. During this time he complained about a continually
under-performing outside consulting firm. In particular, he raised major
concerns about a $54 million computer contract with Ciber Inc. Making
these waves got him fired. According to the plaintiff in the case, he
was fired from his job for voicing his opinions about the underperforming
firm. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission; however, said that his termination
was due to budgetary issues.
The plaintiff in the case argued that it was humiliating to be escorted
out of the headquarters. In addition, he stated that he suffered mental
anguish over paying bills and saving for his children’s college
education while also placing strain on his marriage. The case against
the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission resulted in a verdict of $1.6 million
in economic damages and $1.6 million in non-economic damages. After the
recent ruling by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, the plaintiff will get
to keep the entire sum of $3.2 million.
According to Justice Kevin Dougherty, the Whistleblower Law entails overlapping
purposes at times - waiving sovereign immunity and protecting those who
expose wrongdoings. He believes that the desire to protect whistleblowers
is not overridden by the sovereign immunity waiver. Whistleblowers who
come forward and hold companies accountable for wrongdoings should not
be in a worse position after having exposed fraud, corruption, or illegal
activity. This was the first decision of its kind and one that will send
a message to empower employees looking to stand up against corporate greed,
corruption, and fraud.
Whistleblower Damages can be Lifelong
The problem lies in that whistleblowers suffer numerous non-economic damages
after they’ve shed light on illegal activity in a company or organization.
Many have a reputation that will follow them throughout their career,
making it difficult to obtain employment or continue in their line of
work. As such, federal and state laws seek to protect whistleblowers from
suffering retaliation such as:
- Damage to reputation
- Loss of future earnings
- Back pay
- Emotional distress
Because these damages have actual consequences for employees, Justice Dougherty
wrote that these noneconomic damages are actual losses and therefore protected
by law. According to Justice Dougherty, “if no recovery for such
items of loss are available, a whistleblower cannot be made whole.”
Seeking Legal Help if You Are a Whistleblower
Being a whistleblower involves sacrifice. As such, you should be protected
throughout the process. While there are laws in place to protect against
retaliation and discrimination, whistleblowers need a law firm on their
side who is dedicated to protecting them. If you have been a victim of
whistleblower retaliation, the steps you take will have a significant
impact on your future.
At Golomb & Honik, we will investigate your incident thoroughly to
build a strong whistleblower retaliation claim. We will identify important
documents, evidence, and witnesses that will add credibility to your claim.
We will implement a proactive plan to help protect you in the future and
take legal action as is necessary. Whistleblower cases are complex and
require a law firm with the knowledge, resources and experience in this
area of law.
To learn more about your legal options or to schedule a free consultation,
call the Philadelphia Whistleblower lawyers at Golomb & Honik today
at 1-800-355-3300 or 1-215-985-9177 or fill out our confidential
The national Whistleblower lawyers at Golomb & Honik have successfully
represented individuals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and
throughout the United States.