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Whistleblower protection claim filed against government group

A California worker who was removed from a high-profile computer project has filed a whistleblower complaint after he brought to light a variety of problems with the computer system he was designing. The man was employed by the Employment Development Department, assisting the organization with designing new software that would allow Californians to file and track disability claims. When the man exposed issues that could prevent a successful launch, he was taken off of the team.

As it turns out, the 20-year veteran application architect was right; the system malfunctioned horrifically after its launch in September 2012, causing inconvenient backlogs and requiring staff to process claims manually. The employee had predicted the failure months in advance, raising concerns about problems that his supervisors insisted had been repaired. He was removed from the project after his bosses determined that he was costing the project too much money. Now, the man has filed a suit under California whistleblower protection laws to protest his removal from the project and apparent demotion.

The man contends that he was punished because he reported violations of contracting procedures, along with general incompetence and bad decision-making. He cites evidence of questionable hiring practices, in which at least two workers did not have the minimum experience required by the original contract.

The California Personnel Board determined in December 2012 that the man was not the victim of retaliation; EDD officials contend that the employee was transferred to another department because the project was coming to a close. Still, legislators in the state say they intend to pursue audits and additional investigation against the government agency, largely because of the questions raised by this civil suit. As a result of the computer malfunctions, scores of Californians are not receiving their disability checks. Further, the project cost about $100 million more than anticipated, raising the ire of government officials at the local and state levels.

Employees who report wrongdoing within their organization are often fired, but they can also suffer a pay cut or receive a demotion. Even a transfer to a different department can be viewed as retaliation. Those workers deserve financial compensation for their troubles; a consultation with a qualified employment attorney may be beneficial for those victims.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Whistle-blower warned EDD bosses about glitches in software upgrade" Ricardo Lopez, Jan. 09, 2014

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