Published: June 4, 2013
A former Lockheed Martin employee and whistleblower won another favorable judgment Tuesday in a case that could establish greater worker protection under federal law.
Andrea Brown became director of communications in Colorado Springs in 2003 and quit in February 2008. She took the company to court in May 2008, saying she felt forced to resign when her working conditions deteriorated after telling Lockheed officials that her boss at the time violated several conditions of its pen pal program.
The program allowed Lockheed Martin employees to correspond with U.S. military members in Iraq. Brown reported that her boss "had developed sexual relationships with several of the soldiers in the program, had purchased a laptop computer for one soldier, sent inappropriate e-mails and sex toys to soldiers stationed in Iraq, and traveled to welcome-home ceremonies for soldiers on the pretext of business, while actually taking soldiers to expensive hotels in limousines for intimate relations," the lawsuit states.
Brown also stated her concern that the costs were billed back to the program's client, the federal government.
As a result of her complaint, she said, she started having problems at work. According to the suit, Brown said she was told on separate occasions that her "job had been posted on the internet and that she should get her resume together." She also said she was assigned to a boss who presented a negative attitude toward her from the beginning.
Brown sued Lockheed Martin for reinstatement, back pay, pain and suffering, and attorney and other fees under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, which is designed to protect whistleblowers.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit in Denver upheld a previous decision by a U.S. Administrative Law judge in Washington D.C., who said Brown was indeed protected by Sarbanes-Oxley.
If Lockheed Martin wants to contest the ruling, it will have to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, said Brown's attorney, Diane King. She said Tuesday she did not think Lockheed will pursue a final appeal.
"This is a very good case for whistleblowers," King said. "I think it sends a really important message that people who do the right thing are protected."
Brown was making about $100,000 annually when she resigned. She was awarded full back-pay and $75,000 in damages, attorney fess and other costs. While Brown also won reinstatement at Lockheed Martin, Tuesday's court ruling states the U.S. Board of Labor may need to find other ways to compensate Brown, if there is no longer an appropriate position for her at Lockheed. If that is the case, Brown could receive additional payments from the company, King said.
"Whistleblower cases are becoming more and more on the forefront, and the government understands that important information is coming from them, and that it is important to protect them," King said.
Contact Ned Hunter: 636-0275.