EDVA judge grants summary judgment to SAIC in whistleblower retaliation case

by Ben Vernia | February 4th, 2013

On January 28, District Judge Liam O’Grady of the Eastern District of Virginia, in Dillon v. SAIC, Inc., granted the defendant company’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiff had failed to prove a violation of 31 USC 3730(h).

The plaintiff was an employee for six years at the government contracting firm, SAIC, and worked during his final two years on National Science Foundation contracts. He alleged that the company terminated him in retaliation for complaining about time mischarging at the firm. The company argued that the evidence showed, instead, that it had legitimate business reasons for removing him from managerial responsibilities and later terminating him.

Judge O’Grady first found that the plaintiff had failed to prove that he had engaged in protected activity under the False Claims Act and that the company had been on notice of his actions. Although he had disputed with one supervisor the appropriate billing of timekeeping charges, and had discussed with another the appropriate account to use for billing remediation work following a system failure, these were simply questions regarding procedure, and did not threaten or warn of potential FCA litigation. The court also rejected two other allegations – the first, involving an alleged investigation into improper cross-charging, because no one at the company had been aware of the plaintiff’s investigation – and a second, involving complaints to the corporation’s ethics panel, because he made them only after his termination.

The court likewise found that the company had not, in fact, retaliated against its former employee: Although the employees he had been supervising had been removed from his oversight, he kept his job title and salary, and had himself admitted that he was underutilized as a manager; and his removal and subsequent termination resulted from a request by the customer (the NSF) that he be removed from working on its contract.

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