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Pennsylvania man files whistleblower suit against government

A Pennsylvania man has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his former employer, the Redevelopment Authority of Fayette County, located in the western part of the state. The man says that he complained of misconduct on the part of his colleagues at the county weatherization program and was subsequently fired from his job.

He says he began working there in 2008 and was wrongfully terminated six months ago after an inspector general's investigation was launched to look into the allegations of fraud that he made.

The weatherization program, like those in many cold climates, helps low income people who cannot afford new furnaces or weatherization for their homes. These programs are considered essential in climates like Pennsylvania's, where temperatures can get very low in the winter and people without heat or properly insulated homes could be at risk of conditions like frostbite.

According to the lawsuit, the audit revealed that officials were approving furnace purchases for people who didn't qualify and that in some cases were giving preference to relatives or friend who were on the waiting list for heating assistance.

Employees who report fraud or abuse of the system like that alleged in this case are exactly the people who whistleblower laws are designed to protect. Whistleblower protection laws prevent employers from wrongfully terminating or otherwise retaliating against employees who report illegal or unethical activity.

The Redevelopment Authority has not commented on the lawsuit yet, so it isn't clear whether they will seek a settlement or pursue a trial in the whistleblower case.

Source: Associated Press, "Pa. man has whistleblower suit on furnace program," Nov. 1, 2012.

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