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Professor sues school for violating whistleblower laws

A former department chairman's lawsuit will remain under consideration by California courts despite attempts by the California Northstate University College of Pharmacy to have the case dismissed. The man alleges that he was terminated from his position at the school because of his whistleblower activities.

According to courtroom documents, the man was fired from his job at the school in July 2011 after admitting to accreditation investigators that the school did not have the resources necessary to continue its program. He also brought illegal tuition payment schemes to light by reporting them to his managers.

The man decided to sue the university under allegations of age discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act protects whistleblowers from retaliation by their supervisors.

An Oct. 23 ruling confirmed that the man had a plausible case against the university, so the case will remain active in California courts. The case will proceed to trial because the defendant has not elected to pursue settlement options with the plaintiff. Neither party involved in the suit has submitted comments to local media outlets.

In this case, the man was probably fired because he dared to reveal unflattering evidence about the school to federal regulators. Withholding that information would have been overtly unethical, especially considering that the university was engaged in certifying healthcare professionals. In addition, the man decided to confront his supervisors with evidence of illegal tuition manipulation. Instead of being thanked for his commitment to ethical practice, he found himself dismissed from his job.

Whistleblowers, or people who reveal unethical or illegal practices in the workplace, are protected under both state and federal laws in the state of California.

The plaintiff in this case has not disclosed how much he is seeking in connection with the case, though he may choose to fight for reinstatement. If he chooses that option, the university may be required to place him in his old position. Additionally, the man may attempt to recover damages related to the whistleblower acts, including lost wages, back pay and emotional distress.

Source: The Sacramento Business Journal, "Court denies motion to dismiss pharmacy school whistle-blower suit," Kathy Robertson, Oct. 25, 2012.

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