Fired Whistleblower Wins $418,000 for Wrongful Termination
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Fired Whistleblower Wins $418,000 for Wrongful Termination

By Sarah Pierce

 

Ave Maria College
(LEGAFI) -- A Michigan jury has ordered Ave Maria College to pay almost $418,000 to a whistleblower the school fired in retaliation for cooperating with federal investigators who found financial aid violations.

Former Ave Maria College administrator Kay Ernsting filed her whistleblower lawsuit seven years ago after the college eliminated her position as director of financial aid, shortly after the U.S. Department of Education fined and ordered the college to make repayments of almost $250,00 for improperly issued financial aid. Ernsting and three others who cooperated with the federal investigation were among five employees fired. According to testimony, Ernsting and the others refused orders to alter records, and continued to communicate with investigators despite being ordered by superiors at the school to stop. 

The jury didn’t believe the college’s explanation that the termination wasn’t retribution but was based on long-established plans to phase out the Michigan campus of the college and reopen the school as Ave Maria University on a campus in Florida. Instead, the jury determined Ave Maria College violated state law that is designed to protect whistleblower employees who point out wrongdoing in their workplace, and awarded Ernsting with compensation for lost wages plus damages. 

The decision upholds provisions in qui tam whistleblower lawsuits that are designed to protect whistleblowers from retaliation and encourage them to come forward if they believe their employer is defrauding the government.

 

Updated May 27th, 2011

All updates are located in the Qui Tam Whistleblower section of Legafi. 

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