Sunday, January 08, 2006

That Whistle Isn't For You

Jonathan Fishbein, a medical safety officer with the Division of AIDS at NIH, was reininstated after raising allegations of safety problems with federal AIDS research in the US and Africa, sexual harassment of female NIH workers, and the use of foster children to test AIDS drugs. He returned to his position on Dec. 12, 2005 six months after being fired and a two-year battle which prompted congressional and federal investigations. Fishbein was fired for "poor performance" even though he had been recommend for a cash performance bonus weeks before he was terminated.

On June 30, 2005, Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Max Baucus (D-Montana) wrote to NIH Director Elias Zerhouni:

Retaliation against an employee for reporting misconduct or voicing concerns is unacceptable, illegal, and violates the Whistleblower Protection Act. Moreover, it would have a chilling effect on other NIH employees who might make truthful but critical comments about NIH.
Originally, an administrative law judge ruled that Fishbein had no whistleblower protections because he was hired outside the civil service system as special employees; the government subsequently argued that such workers should have some protection if they blow the whistle.

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