Former Glaxo Employee Loses Battle Over Firing


 

Hamrick Decision (PDF) 

 

 

http://blog.skoler-abbott.com/2016/02/26/employee-who-made-death-threats-cannot-proceed-with-retaliation-claim/

Employee Who Made Death Threats Cannot Proceed with Retaliation Claim

by Stefanie M. Renaud

Retaliation claims often turn on the legitimacy of an employer’s stated reasons for termination.  In order to prevail in a retaliation lawsuit, the employee has the burden of demonstrating that the employer’s stated reasons are a pretext for unlawful retaliation. As a recent case before the First Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrated, this can be particularly difficult if the reason for termination is that the employer had made death threats against his coworkers.

Plaintiff Blair Hamrick filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, et seq., which allows individuals to bring lawsuits on behalf of the U.S. government.  In her complaint, Hamrick alleged that GSK had committed fraud by marketing several products for off-label uses.  Hamrick found participation in the ensuing investigation stressful and began to abuse alcohol.  He was convicted of driving while alcohol impaired (“DWAI”), and subsequently took a leave of absence. Hamrick did not report his DWAI conviction to GSK, despite a company policy requiring him to do so.

Upon returning from leave, Hamrick, who owned “three or four” guns at the time, displayed increasingly alarming and paranoid behavior.  Hamrick made death threats against coworkers, told coworkers he obsessed about killing certain coworkers, and told coworkers that he would “like to take a gun and shoot some people.”  After these comments were reported to management, GSK placed Hamrick on paid administrative leave.  GSK then attempted for several months to negotiate a severance agreement, before eventually terminating Hamrick.  Hamrick then modified his complaint to include a claim for retaliation.  The District Court dismissed Hamrick’s retaliation claim at the summary judgment stage, finding that no reasonable jury could conclude that GSK’s reasons for terminating Hamrick – his violation of company policy and threats of workplace violence – were pretextual.  Hamrick appealed the decision to the First Circuit Court of Appeals.

On appeal, Hamrick argued that the 56 items that GSK withheld from Hamrick during discovery due to attorney-client privilege were not privileged because the attorneys were making business decisions instead of offering legal advice.  The First Circuit affirmed the District Court’s actions and concluded that GSK had acted as any sophisticated party would under the circumstances by consulting extensively with their counsel before taking any action against Hamrick.  The Court concluded that the privilege was appropriate because there was no reason to doubt that the attorneys had been offering legal advice.

Regarding the alleged retaliation, the First Circuit concluded that, if anything, the fact that Hamrick was a whistleblower “caused GSK to tread more carefully and slowly than it otherwise might” in terminating Hamrick.  The Court also looked favorably upon the fact that GSK took no actions after learning about the initial lawsuit that suggested any type of retaliatory animus.

The case underscores two big lessons for employers.  First, there is no substitute for the advice of experienced and knowledgeable employment counsel when terminating employees who may be whistleblowers or who present a particularly challenging case for termination.  Second, sound reasons for termination decisions are invaluable in defeating claims of retaliation.

(SEE PDF ABOVE FOR DETAILS OF THIS CASE)

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. High plains drifter

    Hamrick was a loser long before he lost this. He quit every really important aspect of the case, never voiced an opinion and was only recruited for the case due to gross attorney malpractice. .which unjustly enriched him…giving him half of the award for spending 9 years whining about his perceived problems. He paid off Joseph Piacentile, a Medicaid fraud felon, who grossly and repeatedly violated the terms of a quid pro quo settlement agreement, which in fact proved to be extortion as Piacentile never intended to abide by the terms. I am fighting this fraud perpetuated by him repeatedly. Hamrick again quit…and now attempts to play some kind of hero or attorney on his sham website..PROTECTUSLAW..which does nothing but cost a prospective qui tam whistlblower money for advice fron a quitter and according to the Court…..well read the decision….I rest my case.

    I filed first. I was the only meaningful whistle-blower going to the company first with nothing to gain…except true wrongful termination, settled out of Court with GSK.
    Hamrick took on the hero role. .all over the world..when in fact he was virtually curled up in a fetal position at his mother’s …while I did the work for going on 15 years now.
    After I beat Piacentile, finally stopping his fraud…as he seeks to pay 100K under the table for a Presidential Pardon…it will be Hamrick and the other relator clones who stole my information and filed with a firm. .. Phillips and Cohen under Erika Kelton..I have their response to my initial allegations ..she states:” We do not think off label detailing constitutes fraud.”… Then TAF awards her attorney of the year accolades. ..an embarrassing situation, from my perspective.
    All this was long before Hamrick could even spell Qui Tam whistlblower.
    How Hamrick can keep up this facade is another implication of his lack of any ability to face reality and come out of his drug induced perpetual coma.
    Poor Bastard.
    The whole true story will be told when I finish the fight that Hamrick quit.

    GREG THORPE

  2. High plains drifter

    If you only knew , wise ass. Scholarly interpretation does not pass the smell test. What have you ever accomplished ?…at least I post my name….I call you chickenshit, not Wolfpack. Walk a day in my shoes, let alone 15 years. Probably some Jealous attorney who missed out on the Vulture Frenzy. Sorry.

  3. High plains drifter

    Pardon pour le last post, J’avais beaucuop des freak stupide, qui respond comme ca….je comprends, maintenent…J’espere
    tu est bonne…et Wolfpack, Un tres
    bonne chien de chase.
    Salut,
    GREGOIRE
    Bonne Nuit, pardon le Mal Francais….35 ans, c’est vraiment
    Un long temps !!!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: