Whistleblower wins discrimination case, and award, against VA

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – After a 6-year fight with the U-S Department of Veterans Affairs, the light at the end of a dark, dark tunnel is finally in sight for whistleblower Lisa Magin, “We almost lost our home, we had a lot of financial hardship. It has just been awful.”

Magin learned the hard way what happens to whistleblowers when they take on a massive government bureaucracy like the Department of Veterans Affairs, but now the VA worker has won a federal discrimination case against the agency.

Lisa worked as a Medical Supply Technician at the VA Medical Center in Buffalo, in the Sterile Processing Service which is responsible for cleaning and sterilizing medical and dental tools.

She reported co-workers taking shortcuts, or skipping basic rules, uncovering blood and fecal matter on those tools, an indication they were not properly sterilized. But Magin said, because she was trying to do the right thing, “they fired me, they refused to accommodate me, and then they fired me.”

Lisa filed a complaint with the VA’s Office of Special Counsel, which upheld her protected status as a whistleblower.

James Carney, is a fellow worker at the Buffalo, and served as Magin’s legal advocate, “Office of Special Counsel came back–in fact they declared her a whistleblower, they sent a letter to the President of the United States at the time–saying that she should be lauded for her efforts.”

Instead, the VA made life even tougher for Magin, who also accused the VA of discrimination with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, because they failed to accommodate her according to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In 2015, an administrative law judge for the EEOC found Magin was a victim of discrimination, and last week according to Carney, the ALJ determined she was entitled to back pay, back benefits, and compensatory damages, amounting to about $300,000, “The judge in his initial decision indicated that they violated the law, and then ordered a separate hearing on compensatory damages itself–damage award.”

Lisa Magin was re-hired at the VA about a year ago, in a different area of the medical center than her previous assignment, but she is still entitled to back pay and benefits. Was it worth it—-6 years of “hell” as Magin has put it? For the medical needs of those veterans she serves every day, Magin said, “you bet.”

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