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Petaluma doctor wins wrongful termination suit, awarded $1.35M

If you noticed that someone was breaking the rules at work in a way that could harm others, what would you do? Would you sit back and let it happen, or would you speak up in the hopes of preventing harm to others? In a situation like this, most people would choose to speak up, even if they were nervous to do so.

Unfortunately, not all employers appreciate whistleblowers. Many people have been fired for speaking up in situations like this. Firing someone for reporting harmful behavior in the workplace, however, is illegal in some cases. In fact, one doctor from Petaluma was recently awarded more than $1 million because his employer fired him for reporting serious problems.

From 1991 to 2001, the doctor worked at a facility in Sonoma that provided residential care to developmentally disabled adults. During his employment, he began to notice that allegations of patient abuse and deaths were not being reported to local authorities. Frustrated that his employer was doing little to make patients safer, he went to the police, the press and ultimately, the California State Legislature.

Thanks to his efforts, the state passed a new law that required local law enforcement to investigate allegations of abuse rather than the facilities themselves. Unfortunately, not even a new law could turn the doctor's employer around.

The doctor continued to fight for the patients' well-being until he was fired. In response to being fired, the doctor filed a lawsuit against his former employer, arguing that he we wrongfully terminated for speaking up about his employer's negligence when it came to investigating allegations of patient abuse. Although it took 12 years, a jury ultimately sided with the doctor, awarding him $1.35 million.

Source: petaluma360.com, "Petaluma doctor gets $1.35M in whistleblower lawsuit," Emily Charrier, Nov. 21, 2013

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