So, as I guessed, Dr. Bright is claiming to be a whistleblower. I previously wrote about Dr. Bright here. Dr. Bright submitted a whistleblower complaint with attachments. See NPR news report here. He filed his complaint with the Office of Special Counsel. OSC has the power to investigate whistleblower complaints submitted by federal employees. He accuses his boss and Asst. Secretary of DHHS, Dr. Robert Kadlec, and the Secretary of DHHS, Alex Azar, of showing lack of ignoring Dr. Bright’s concerns about shortages of medical equipment.
In the complaint, Dr. Bright says he raised concerns early on about the lack of preparation by our federal government for the coronavirus. Then, later the administration, Pres. Trump, in particular began pushing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment option. Dr. Bright resisted that push. He alleges n his complaint that he was demoted due to his resistance. In looking at his complaint, he is also alleging fraud, waste and abuse of government funds. See the NPR website for a pdf of his OSC complaint.
Either complaint, the whistleblower complaint or the allegation of fraud, waste and abuse could be strong claims. In his last performance evaluation, Dr. Bright received a good rating with no criticism. DHHS’ claim that Dr. Bright was a problem employee will hold little water. DHHS also transferred Dr. Bright to his new job at the National Institute of Health with no warning. Indeed, Dr. Bright learned of the transfer from the media. He tried to call his boss, Dr. Kadlec, about the transfer, but the Assistant Secretary would not return his calls. Whenever the employer fails to follow its own procedures in carrying out a termination only helps show reprisal.
Whistleblowers receive extensive protections. Alleging abuse of federal funds constitutes a violation of the False Claims Act. That is a relatively new sort of claim. The OSC has the power to conduct a thorough investigation. It will be interesting to see if they do so here.
Dr. Bright claims his new job is “less impactful.” It appears he did not suffer a loss in pay. Normally, most lawyers would not accept a case with no lost pay. But, if he can show some direct impact on his career, that will help.
And, of course, alleging high profile violations represents a high stakes type of lawsuit.