Big Win for Whistleblowers in U.S. Court Of Appeals for The Fourth Circuit
Washington, D. C. May 24, 2016. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled in favor of a corporate whistleblower in a May 20, 2016 decision. The case, filed under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act by Mrs. Dinah R. Gunther, alleged that the Virginia-based software provider, Deltek, Inc. fired her after she raised accounting concerns to the company’s General Counsel, Audit Committee and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.The U.S. Department of Labor originally reviewed the claim and ruled in Mrs. Gunther’s favor, ordering the company to pay substantial damages, including back pay with benefits and four years of front pay. The company filed various appeals. Mrs. Gunther represented herself as a pro se complainant throughout the administrative trial and the initial administrative appeal. She was assisted by her non-lawyer husband.
In ruling for Mrs. Gunther, the Court determined that she was “entitled to be returned to the identical financial position she would have occupied had she not been terminated unlawfully for protected whistleblowing.”
The Court also made important findings upholding the Department of Labor’s rulings on removal of company documents and surreptitious tape recording in the context of a whistleblower case. The Court noted that “Gunther’s effort to protect selected relevant documents from what she reasonably believed was a risk of destruction” was reasonable.
Stephen M. Kohn who argued before the Court of Appeals on behalf of Mrs. Gunther stated: “This is a great day for whistleblowers. Employees who risk their jobs to report wrongdoing must be assured that they will not suffer financial retribution.”
Mrs. Gunther is a hero. With the support of her husband and her family, she stood up to a corporate giant, and vindicated her right to disclose potential violations of law. She has fought this case since her illegal termination on October 27, 2009. A long and painful journey,” Kohn added.
The whistleblower, Dinah Gunther, said: “This has been both the simplest and most difficult journey I’ve made. Simple because I believe I did the right thing by reporting potential wrongdoing; difficult because Deltek mounted forceful defenses that took a toll on my career and family. I am grateful that the trial Judge ultimately found Deltek’s defenses lacked merit.” Mrs. Gunther added “I think of King David, who as a shepherd boy faced Goliath, a giant who in every measure – save one – had the advantage over David. What David had over Goliath was unshakeable faith. Standing on faith, David stopped Goliath with a simple smooth stone. Throughout this process, my faith never wavered, and today I feel like I am the stone that stopped the giant.”