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California whistleblower prevails in wrongful termination lawsuit

The job of a psychologist at the California Department of State Hospitals facility for the mentally ill was to evaluate patients committed by criminal courts. She was to help determine whether a prisoner was mentally competent to stand trial.

She said she was fired after she protested department policy to declare mentally ill people fit. Last week, a judge and jury ruled that she was a victim of wrongful termination and whistleblower retaliation. She is now to receive compensation of $1 million from Napa State Hospital and three of its employees.

The hospital housing 1,150 patients is about 400 miles north of Newport Beach.  

The psychologist had positive reviews of her work until 2008 when she testified that a patient had been improperly classified as competent to stand trial.

She said hospital officials began a campaign of retaliation against her, making life on the job miserable, eventually culminating in an accusation that she committed perjury in a 2010 patient hearing.

She was then fired.

However, she refused to accept her termination, appealing the firing and filing a Whistleblower Retaliation Complaint as well.

She was reinstated in 2011, but she said the retaliation against her continued. For one thing, she was slotted into an entry-level position rather than the job she had held. Negative documents remained in her personnel file and her pay was shorted.

But now, the court system has vindicated her and punished those she said wrongfully fired her and retaliated against her.

Her story serves as inspiration to those in similar circumstances. The first step in the process is to discuss the circumstances of the firing with an employment law attorney. 

Source: AllGov.com, "Whistleblower at State Mental Hospital Awarded $1 Million,” March 12, 2014

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