Nearly a decade ago, Sherry Chen, a Chinese-American scientist, was an employee of the National Weather Service when false accusations of espionage resulted in the loss of her job.
In 2014, the FBI arrested Chen, charging her with espionage. Specifically, the FBI claimed that Chen had illegally accessed a government database with the intention of stealing information about American dams to share them with Chinese scientists.
Chen was guilty of no such crime. When the matter was investigated further, it was determined that Chen had merely used a shared password that numerous coworkers also used to access the database for work purposes.
The Justice Department dropped its case against Chen accordingly. However, her employer still fired her.
Chen initially responded by filing a wrongful termination grievance with the Merit Systems Protection Board. This body is involved in handling various employment cases for federal employees.
Chen won her case. However, the Commerce Department appealed. Due to staffing shortages at the MSPB, the appeal did not move forward for several years.
This prompted Chen to file a civil suit in 2019. Because her wrongful termination case was moving slowly, she technically filed a suit against the US government for false arrest and malicious prosecution. It’s noteworthy, though, that said arrest and prosecution directly resulted in the loss of Chen’s job.
Finally, after years of fighting for justice, Chen has arrived at a historic settlement. She is to receive $550,000 immediately. Over the next 10 years, she will receive additional payments adding up to $1.25 million, for a total settlement of $1.75 million. According to Chen’s lawyers, the Commerce Department will also provide an official letter recognizing her qualifications as a professional. This letter may serve as both a symbolic apology and a practical means of helping Chen secure employment in the future, should she ever struggle to do so.
Although the story technically has a “happy ending,” stories such as this serve as a reminder that qualified and dedicated employees can face significant hardship if they lose their jobs. This is particularly true if they’re fired for discriminatory reasons.
These types of stories also indicate that virtually any type of employer can be guilty of wrongful termination. While we often assume that private employers will be most inclined to allow bias to negatively impact their judgment when deciding to terminate employees, it’s clear that even the government can fire employees without having proper justification for doing so.
Hopefully, you will never lose your job because an employer fired you for illegal reasons. That said, it’s important to be aware of your legal rights in case this ever does occur. If you’re a Wrongfully Terminated Scientist, you may be eligible for compensation, reinstatement to your job, or both.
Do you believe you have a valid case against an employer who fired you for improper reasons? Review your case with a lawyer if so. At Azadian Law Group, PC, a Los Angeles wrongful termination attorney will help you navigate the legal process. Learn more by contacting us online or calling us at 213-229-9031.