Former police chemist awarded compensation in whistleblower case

Employees in Wisconsin may be interested in the recent case of a former St. Louis police chemist who was awarded $175,000 on claims she was fired for being a whistleblower. After a weeklong trial in St. Louis Circuit Court, the jury concluded that the chemist was terminated for pointing out errors in the crime lab’s drug testing processes.

The plaintiff had complained multiple times about a colleague’s failure to detect benzylpiperazine, a chemical ingredient of Ecstasy, in two criminal cases in 2008. While she and her attorney purported the St. Louis Police Department fired her for pointing out its blunders, counsel for the police claimed she was terminated in October 2010 for different reasons.

According to the department, the chemist was let go for insubordination. She had allegedly worked a fatal arson case in May 2010 despite being ordered to prioritize drug cases. The police further maintained she broke chain of command and lied about the details concerning the incident.

Though the chemist admitted to transporting the arson case evidence to another unit, her attorney stated that it was hard to believe she should have been fired over 10 minutes of work and presented a series of emails and meetings that showed the department’s concern over the drug test claims brought forth by the plaintiff. Further, officials have reportedly granted that the chemist’s analysis was correct, and have since adopted her method of testing of BZP.

Whistleblower activities are protected under state law, and those who have faced retaliation after reporting an employer’s failures may be entitled to compensation. Individuals involved in cases similar to the story above might benefit from discussing the evidence with an attorney. The attorney may be able to build a case that could be presented to the courts.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, “Jury awards $175,000 to fired St. Louis police chemist in whistleblower case“, Jennifer Mann, May 28, 2014

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