Can Whistleblowers in Pa. Now Win Noneconomic Damages?

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
  • Humiliation

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 Legal, 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 Legal today at 1-800-355-3300 or 1-215-985-9177 or fill out our confidential Contact Form.

The national Whistleblower lawyers at Golomb Legal have successfully represented individuals in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and throughout the United States.