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Defamation lawsuit filed against Penn State by former employee

A San Diego worker may be put in an awkward and uncomfortable position if he or she ever witnesses something suspicious at work. When this does happen, employees should understand that they may be protected under California and federal whistleblower laws when they choose to file a complaint about illegal conduct in the workplace.

Under state and federal whistleblower laws, San Diego employers cannot terminate, demote, harass or discriminate against an employee who chooses to report illegal conduct or unethical practices. Employers must also be careful not to defame workers who do raise awareness about concerning issues in the workplace. When workers do face retaliation after reporting illegal practices, they may be able to protect their rights and their jobs by filing a whistleblower lawsuit or defamation claim.

No worker deserves to be treated unfairly for trying to do the right thing. However, a former Penn State graduate assistant who had testified against Jerry Sandusky during the former football coach's sex scandal case claims that his reputation was ruined by the university for doing so.

The man claims that he had first witnessed an inappropriate incident between Sandusky and a boy back in 2001 while on campus. He claims that he reported the incident, but nothing came of his complaint until Sandusky was arrested last year for sex abuse. Over the summer, Sandusky was convicted of sexually abusing 10 boys.

The defamation lawsuit states that shortly after Sandusky was arrested in November 2011, the graduate assistant had met with the university's then-president and the athletic department to discuss the issue. During the meeting, the school's president at the time allegedly accused the graduate assistant of lying about properly reporting the misconduct when he had witnessed it in 2001.

Following the meeting, the graduate assistant was placed on administrative leave. His contract was never renewed. The former employee is requesting that he get his job back. He is also seeking back pay and compensation for other damages.

Source: Associated Press, "McQueary files defamation suit against Penn State," Mark Scolforo, Oct. 2, 2012