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Whistleblower Controversy Hits San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University recently became the subject of a whistleblower claim after it fired an employee who correctly alerted the university to potential illegal activity and the wrongful storage of hazardous materials inside the science building on campus.

The report led to $3.6 million worth of closures and fixes in 2014. A local judge recently gave the green light for the case to move forward after an SFSU attorney sought to have the case thrown out.

The origins of the case go back to November 2013, when Aaron Nevatt, former director of environmental health and safety at SFSU, discovered that there were unsafe amounts of lead, mercury and asbestos in the air while he was investigating a sealed basement room where Native American artifacts had once been stored. The investigation revealed the health hazards were not, in fact, isolated to that single room.

SFSU President Leslie Wong decided to shut down the building for four months at the beginning of the spring 2014 semester due to environmental hazards. It cost the university $3.6 million to resolve the issue. The university was later fined nearly $5,000 for health and safety violations, including a failure to locate asbestos and warn employees of its presence.

Four months after the building was closed for testing and fixes, Nevatt was fired for “poor job performance.” University attorneys say this was because there were, in fact, no traces of toxic levels of contamination to be found, and Nevatt’s recommendation to close the building cost the university millions of dollars. However, another specialist from the Air and Water Sciences depart disagreed, saying “the condition of the room was alarming.”

SFSU has also refused to hand over thousands of emails regarding Nevatt and the Science Building.

If you would like to learn more about how to handle whistleblower issues internally within your organization, speak with a skilled Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.

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