Raising the alarm over improper practices in the workplace can be difficult, especially as most people understand that many whistleblowers face unfair retaliation. Retaliation in New York is not always clear-cut, and can be more subtle than firing or demoting the whistleblower. A dentist who works in a Veterans Affairs clinic claims that she is the victim of whistleblower retaliation and, as a result, has been unable to see patients.

The VA clinic dentist blew the whistle over impractical logging and maintenance of medical records, which she claimed caused significant delays in treatment and forced many veterans to travel hundreds of miles for dental care. She pointed out that staff were unable to access their electronic record system, and instead had to fax paper forms filled out by hand to then be entered electronically elsewhere. This process took days and weeks, leaving one patient with a mouth lesion waiting 11 weeks for a biopsy approval. When requests were denied, they were never even filed.

This system was supposed to be overhauled in Feb. 2016, but those changes never came. An investigation revealed that over half of patients assigned to that VA clinic experienced a delay when awaiting approval to be seen at a non-VA facility. For in-house consultations, 42 percent of their patients had to wait to be seen.

Sometime after the whistleblower exposed the lack of timely dental care, the VA shut down the dental office where she worked and recommended that she be fired. According to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the VA’s cited reason for the firing — professional misconduct — is not accurate, and the suggestion was instead retaliation. She is currently still at the VA, although in an administrative position.

Most whistleblowers have the consumer or patient in mind when they expose improper activity. Many New York employers take this as a threat that impacts their own bottom line or reputation, and often take swift action to punish the whistleblower. This type of retaliation is illegal, and victims who have been fired, moved to an undesirable position or otherwise discriminated against can pursue action for just legal recourse.

Source: billingsgazette.com, “Whistleblower in Billings VA clinic faces removal while office is shut down“, Matt Hudson, Oct. 20, 2017