Jury awards $200K to whistleblower fired by city of Dallas

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

A federal jury has awarded more than $200,000 to a man who alleged that he was fired from his job with the City of Dallas because he was a whistleblower. Bruton Stephens worked as an electrician for the Dallas Department of Public Works and Transportation before he was fired from his job in 2009.

According to his lawsuit against the City of Dallas, Stephens filed a written complaint with the city in 2009 alleging that he had witnessed a co-worker stealing city property, among other claims. Stephens alleges that as he continued to complain, he was removed from his position as a supervisor and made to do menial jobs like sweeping the parking lot. Stephens says that he was eventually fired for speaking out.

Jurors agreed with Stephens’ allegations, awarding him back pay and damages for mental anguish that resulted from his wrongful termination. The City of Dallas is currently weighing whether to appeal the jury’s verdict.

In addition to laws protecting corporate whistleblowers, federal laws exist which are designed to encourage citizens to report fraud against the government. One of these laws is the False Claims Act. Under this law, individuals who report fraud against the federal government are entitled to recover a portion of the damages that are later recovered by the government in a lawsuit against the perpetrators of the fraud. The lawsuits that are brought to recover these damages are referred to as qui tam lawsuits.