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Woman faced retaliatory discharge after reporting lobbying firm

A probe has been launched into a California lobbying firm's financial activities after a former worker filed an employment suit against the company. The investigation was initiated after a former female employee argued that she had been fired without legitimate cause for termination. That suit was filed in December.

The woman in the case said she lost her job because she refused to misreport political donations, per the orders handed down by her supervisor. Insiders speculate that the company, Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, could face more than $100,000 in fines in connection with the financial misdeeds.

Federal law enforcement agencies are now pursuing a deeper investigation into the matter, after the company was accused of making scores of improper campaign donations. The company is accused of under-reporting the cost of political fundraisers. Politicians associated with the group say they were not aware that such activities were occurring.

The woman alleges that the lobbying firm and its leader intentionally failed to disclose the cost of fundraisers held for politicians. Perks were also included for politicians and their staff members, including sports tickets and other high-end gifts. Lobbyists are prohibited from delivering gifts worth more than $10 to a California politician within a single month.

News reports also show that the woman who filed the wrongful termination claim is being investigated for allegedly embezzling as much as $400,000. Her attorney said those allegations are baseless, explaining that the woman's supervisor only made the allegations after she began filing a complaint. Prosecutors have received recommendations that the woman be charged in connection with the case, but her file is still under review.

Workers should have the right to report misconduct without worrying about the security of their jobs. This woman was apparently reporting a violation of state or federal law. Employees who are fired because they report illegal activity may enjoy certain legal protection. A California employment attorney may be able to explain more about legal mandates that could protect such victims.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, "Brown, Newsom caught up in donations probe" Melody Gutierrez and Carla Marinucci, Feb. 08, 2014

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