A Wrongfully Terminated Chinese-American Scientist Receives $2 Million in Damages

Wrongful termination arises when a worker is fired from their job because of illegal reasons. For instance, it is against the law for an employer to fire an employee because of their gender, race, religion, ethnic background, or disability. If someone loses their job because of an illegal reason, they can file a wrongful termination claim and recover compensation. Even when the government fires an employee for discriminatory reasons, it can be held accountable and made to pay. 

This became clear recently when a Chinese-American scientist with the National Weather Service, who wrongfully lost her job almost ten years ago, received close to $2 million in damages. The scientist was wrongfully accused of spying for China and was wrongfully prosecuted before being wrongfully terminated. The Chinese-American scientist was arrested back in 2014. Her case later collapsed in 2015. 

The case against the Chinese-American scientist commenced after the Commerce Department claimed she was passing information about U.S. dams to a Chinese official. The scientist faced accusations of using a stolen password to get information about U.S. dams and giving the information to the official. As it was later found, though, these accusations were untrue. During the proceedings, it was revealed that the Commerce Department may have ignored the fact that the password the plaintiff used was one to which everyone in the office had access. The Commerce Department may have missed that the plaintiff needed to access the database for her work. 

The lack of evidence led to the charges being dropped in 2015, five months after they were filed. However, the scientist was still unable to resume work. In March 2016, the plaintiff was wrongfully fired from her job after being placed on indefinite leave in 2014. In 2018, the Merit Systems Protection Board discovered the termination was illegal, but the Commerce Department appealed and placed the scientist again on indefinite leave. 

In 2019, the Chinese-American scientist filed a civil suit against the United States government. In her 2019 lawsuit, the plaintiff sought $5 million in damages. The settlement the scientist recently received is the culmination of these efforts. According to news sources, the court granted the plaintiff $550,000 and an additional $1.25 million to be paid over ten years. This settlement is one of the largest paid to one plaintiff in the history of the United States Commerce Department. On top of the monetary damages awarded, the scientist’s lawyers said that the Commerce Department would provide a letter acknowledging the scientist’s extensive services. 

In a statement, the Chinese-American scientist said she had finally achieved justice. Indeed, this is an enormous win for the plaintiff. It is also a huge victory for the Chinese-American community at large. It is clear from this case that when the government discriminates, it will be held responsible and made to pay. The plaintiff also stated that she hopes her settlement inspires other Chinese Americans who have been wrongfully terminated and prosecuted to keep fighting for justice. The plaintiff, in this case, is just one of many Chinese Americans across academia and science who have been accused of espionage and, as a result, have been wrongfully prosecuted and terminated. 

Contact a California Employment Lawyer

If you are a California employee who has been wrongfully terminated from their job, contact a California employment lawyer near you to discuss your case.