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Employment Discrimination Blog

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Whistleblower in Georgia Receives Compensation for Retaliation

The Georgia Whistleblower Act (O.C.G.A. §45-1-4) was enacted to promote honesty and transparency in local and state government. This law protects any public employee who files a complaint or discloses any activity "constituting fraud, waste, and abuse in or relating to any state programs or operations" from retaliation. Retaliation may include suspension, demotion or a decrease in salary.

A highly publicized case decided earlier this month has placed the spotlight on this important statute and its necessity to protect public employees throughout Georgia. The lawsuit was brought by former Executive Secretary of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, Stacey Kalbermann who claimed she took a salary cut of $35,000 (roughly 1/3 of her annual salary) and had her deputy’s position eliminated after she expressed her plan to issue subpoenas in the investigation of Governor Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign. The defense argued that the Commission was facing major budget issues and the personnel cuts were necessary, and were not made in response to her investigation efforts into the gubernatorial campaign.

After just a few hours of deliberation, a Fulton County jury ruled in Kalbermann’s favor, ordering the state to pay the plaintiff 700,000 in damages for their retaliatory actions which ultimately forced her from her job. It's important to note that the $700,000 judgment does not include back pay or attorney fees which the state will likely be responsible for; the ruling may easily exceed one million dollars. Sherilyn Streicker, Kalbermann’s former deputy, who was relieved of her duties following the subpoena request, has followed a separate wrongful termination suit against the Commission.

The Whistleblower Act was developed to protect public employees who help to identify and expose unethical activities in government. Provided these activities are reported in an appropriate fashion to either a supervisor or governmental agency, these employees are protected by law. While this particular act only applies to public employees in Georgia, there are federal protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for employees of certain industries where the health and safety of the public may be at stake.

If you think you have been wrongfully terminated or unfairly retaliated against in your workplace, it’s important that you contact an experienced employment law firm. The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC have assisted employees in Atlanta and throughout Georgia with complex employment discrimination and wrongful termination matters. Call 770-670-6250 to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options for recovery.


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The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC serve the entire state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Alpharetta, Auburn, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County, GA.



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