A jury last week found that the University of Virginia unfairly fired Dr. Weihua Huang in 2009 following his disclosure of improprieties in the handling of research grants from the National Institutes of Health. The jury awarded Huang just over $819K for back pay and damages, including damage to his reputation. Per a later decision by the judge, the jury may award additional sums for lost future earnings or require reinstatement.
Dr. Huang alleged that grant funds awarded to him for nicotine addition research were “charged without authorization and for work that was never performed on the grant from June 2009 to November 2009″ by a university colleague. Dr. Ming Li. Dr. Li and department chair Dr. Bankole Johnson terminated Dr. Huang’s employment, alleging performance issues with supervisors, shortly after Dr. Huang communicated his concerns.
This is a precedent-setting case since it is one of the only cases tried to a verdict since the anti-retaliation provision of the False Claims Act was amended in May 2009. (The Employment Law Group Law Firm, Oct. 15 PR release)
Every whistleblower win is precious. For every whistleblower who wins a case in court, there are many more who never reach a court because the legal protections for their type of disclosure are thin or nonexistent. Even whistleblowers win financial compensation may suffer for years from the emotional pain that often results from workplace abuses that typically include threats, humiliation and unemployment. Please donate, if you can, to the Whistleblower Support Fund so that we can continue our efforts to help courageous whistleblowers rebuild shattered lives.