Tags: department of energy | whistleblower | sexual harassment | lawsuit

Report: Dept. of Energy Spent $10 Million on Lawsuit Over $4.30

Image: Report: Dept. of Energy Spent $10 Million on Lawsuit Over $4.30

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By    |   Monday, 30 Jan 2017 06:05 PM

A government contractor spent $10 million fighting a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a Department of Energy employee who pulled the lid off a sexual harassment case.

She was subsequently fired for making local phone calls from her office that tallied less than $5.

Dee Kotla worked as a computer technician at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in northern California, where scientists at the facility work to maintain the United States' stock of nuclear weapons.

Kotla told Sharyl Attkisson on "Full Measure" her termination had to do with her role as a whistleblower.

"I knew they were retaliating against me for testifying for [colleague and sexual harassment victim] Kim," said Kotla, who was fired in 1997. "It was devastating because I had worked so hard to move up and to learn, and was constantly going to school to better myself. It was my security blanket."

Kotla sued the DOE for wrongful termination, which she said was over phone calls that totaled $4.30. She eventually won her two cases, but the Livermore lab fought them hard and dragged the process out over eight years at a cost of $10 million to U.S. taxpayers.

Attkisson reported that Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, helped pass a law after Kotla's cases were over in the mid-2000s that made it illegal for government contractors and federal agencies to use taxpayer money to fight lawsuits if the contractor was at fault in the case. The practice, however, apparently still occurs.

Kotla's attorney Gary Gwilliam, who also represented workers in another lawsuit stemming from a mass layoff at the same lab, told Attkisson there's a tendency for federal contractors to spent vast amounts of money to fight lawsuits over relatively small things.

"It's well known in the field that that word is 'scorched earth litigation.' That means, we're going to fire you, we're going to go after you, we're going to drag you down, we're going to do everything we can to you for as long as ever, to make you so you will never bring a case against us, and that everybody else out there will know that if you bring a case against us, you're going to have to pay," Gwilliam said.

Added Markey, "The taxpayer is ultimately defending, in many instances, the bad guy against the good person who is standing up for public health, for public safety. And the public has a right to know, and they have a right to know who their heroes are, and these whistleblowers are heroes."

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A government contractor spent $10 million fighting a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a Department of Energy employee who pulled the lid off a sexual harassment case.
department of energy, whistleblower, sexual harassment, lawsuit
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2017-05-30
Monday, 30 Jan 2017 06:05 PM
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