In an unsual case (as far as the success rates of these cases (and here) go), and one that might still be overturned by an appellate court, the DOL’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) finds in favor of a mine cleanup whistleblower.
In Dixon v. Dept. of the Interior, No. 06-147 (8/28/08), the ARB found that a federal employee of the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) engaged in protected activity under the whistleblower provisions of several environmental statutes. Consequently, he properly received back pay and compensatory damages.
This decision was an affirmance of an ALJ decision, which held that Earle Dixon complained about an intergovernmental effort to clean up a Nevada copper mine that were protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act and other statutes. Additionally, ALJ found that the BLM failed to prove that it had legitimate reasons for firing Dixon.
As a result of this vicotry, Dixon would receive $10,000 in compensatory damages and backpay. But lest this be a complete victory, the ARB and ALJ both agree that Dixon is not elgible for front pay or punitive damages.
As mentioned above, many pro-employee ARB decisions are still overturned by reviewing appellate courts, especially on the ground that the activity is not protected, so expect a challenge to this decision by the government.
In any event, it is probably too early for Mr. Dixon to celebrate.