A Whistleblower’s Costly Stand Against Employment Discrimination

August 23, 2012  |  Class Actions, Whistleblower/Qui Tam

WhistleblowerIn the current atmosphere of U.S business, whistleblowers are a necessity to police the financial practices in both private and public affairs. Today’s news is a constant influx of stories detailing the corrupt negotiations of senior officials, the unlawful contracts being given to unknowing consumers and the unfair business deals both foreign and domestic. The need for policing the discriminatory practices based on gender and age seems archaic; something referenced in history books. But it only takes a quick search to find out that gender inequality is still present in the U.S workforce and that men like Eugene Rhodes are needed to blow the whistle on companies that actively discriminate against women and seniors.

Mr. Rhodes filed a lawsuit against his employer, R+L Carriers, Inc., an Ohio based shipping company, in 2009. In his complaint, he listed a number of offenses committed by R+L Carrier, including the refusal to hire women for certain jobs, overlooked instances of sexual harassment, lower pay for women, age and handicapped discrimination, and retaliation against employees who took family and medical leave.

Mr. Rhodes was recruited by the company to serve as the Senior Director of Human Resources. Upon discovery of the company’s discriminatory practices, he reported the offenses to senior executives. The company brushed off Mr. Rhodes’ claims, stating that they “had never had to write a big enough check” to bother with anti-discrimination laws.

Mr. Rhodes was eventually fired from R+L Carriers, and filed a lawsuit claiming he was illegally retaliated against because of his age and the discriminatory offenses he reported. The False Claims Act protects whistleblowers like Mr. Rhodes from being fired as a result of making claims of wrongful behavior. Though the case was initially dismissed in court, attorneys from the Public Justice Foundation successfully appealed the case and the Sixth Circuit court allowed Mr. Rhodes to proceed with his lawsuit.

The appeals decision was a major victory for Public Justice’s Iqbal Project, an effort to ensure that the Ashcroft v. Iqbal ruling is not improperly used to abuse plaintiffs’ rights. In the Ashcroft case, a Pakistani Muslim complaint against high-level officials was dismissed because his allegations needed to be more specific. The court stated that to “survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Since the ruling, many defense attorneys have attempted to dismiss civil rights, worker rights and consumer rights cases.  Such was the case in Mr. Rhodes’ lawsuit, and his attorneys are more than pleased with the Sixth Circuit court’s decision to give him his rightful day in court.

Baron and Budd has long been a champion for the whistleblower, and applauds Public Justice and the Iqbal project. The firm’s whistleblower attorneys closely monitor any proceeding that could affect the outcome for their clients, and couldn’t be happier with the court’s decision in Rhodes v. R+L Carriers, Inc. 

If you think your rights may have been affected by a company’s discriminatory practices, find out what you can do here.

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