“To protect the mission of
the University and the
interests of California
citizens, it is important to
bring problematic behavior to
light and correct it...”

UC Davis pays
settlement to
whistleblower faculty

Internal investigation
verifies claim of retaliation
Kyle Sporleder
The California Aggie
August 9, 2010

On June 16, Dr. Amy Block
Joy settled a claim that she
was subjected to retaliation
following her whistleblower
complaint against a fellow
employee in August 2006
with a payment of
approximately $785,000,
including paid administrative
leave and placement in a
new position.

Joy, a nutrition specialist,
made allegations of
fraudulent activities against
Beverly Benford, a former
employee of Food Stamp
Nutrition Education Program
for which Joy was formerly

After a three-year process
involving an investigation and
negotiation for the monetary
settlement, Joy’s attorney,
Michael Hirst, expressed
satisfaction with the case’s

“Dr. Block Joy did what she
knew was right and stood up
to those who wanted her to
fail,” Hirst said. “She showed
strength and determination
throughout this case.”

According to Joy, she
discovered what appeared to
be embezzlement in March
2006. After a failed attempt
to resolve the issue through
university channels, Joy filed
an official whistleblower
complaint. Immediately
afterward, she experienced
her first case of retaliation,
she said.

The vengeance intensified
following each stage of the
process, including times
when a warrant was served
to Benford in October 2006,
a Sacramento Bee article
was published in early 2007,
and again after Joy’s
complaint alleging retaliation
in September 2007.

According to her complaint,
Joy was subject to lies, mail
theft, vandalism and a lack
of cooperation from

“I discovered rather quickly
that the best way to handle
the retaliation was to hold my
head up high, answer all the
investigative questions
truthfully and focus on doing
the best job I could do,” Joy

Benford was eventually
indicted on charges of theft
of government property and,
in 2008, plead guilty
resulting in a sentence of
one year and one day in
prison in addition to being
ordered to pay $128,681 in
government restitution.

Joy theorized that Benford
had been shielded by
“higher-ups” because she
had helped others acquire
equipment for campus
operations while
circumventing restrictions for
such actions. Joy also felt
that she was made into a
scapegoat following her
complaint for those that
retaliated against her.

In a press release following
the settlement, Hirst shared
his view on dealing with

“Any effective policy
encouraging employees to
come forward must ensure
their protection,” Hirst said.
“Too often, those who blow
the whistle regret doing so
because of on-going
retaliation they experience.”

Last month, Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger signed into
law SB 650, authored by
State Senator Leland Yee,
which offers protections for
UC employees that report
illegal or improper actions
from retaliation in the

Although Joy believes that
her case was handled
professionally and fairly by
the university, she also sees
SB 650 as a positive step in
encouraging employees to
report illegal activity and to
protect them once they do.

However, Robert Loessberg-
Zahl, assistant executive vice
chancellor and locally
designated official to receive
whistleblower complaints,
believes that the guidelines
the university already has in
place are sufficiently

“The university has long
been committed by its
policies and procedures to
ensure that allegations of
whistleblower retaliation are
thoroughly investigated,”
Loessberg-Zahl said.
“[Senate Bill 650] does not
change the policy or
procedures that the
University has in place for
internally handling
whistleblower allegations.”

Regardless of the debate
over the usefulness of the
changes SB 650 will
implement, both parties
agree that reporting of illicit
or illegal actions of
employees by employees is
often the only way such
occurrences are brought to

Joe Kiskis, professor of
physics and vice president of
external relations for the
council of UC faculty
associations, which supports
SB 650, argues that UC
employees are the most
likely to possess pertinent
information for such
investigations but are least
likely to share it due to the
fear of retaliation.

“To protect the mission of
the University and the
interests of California
citizens, it is important to
bring problematic behavior to
light and correct it,” Kiskis
said. “Employees who
provide that beneficial
service to the public need to
be protected from retaliation.”

reached at

Whistleblower and Author to
Speak at the Livermore
Public Library
Sunday, May 4 2:00p
Livermore Public Library
Livermore, CA

Join us for a riveting talk by
Amy Block Joy,Ph.D.,
Nutritional Sciences, and
author of
Retaliation, about
the danger of speaking out
in the workplace. A faculty
member at a major public
university and director of a
federal program, Amy knew
what she had to do when
she discovered fraud at her
university. Retaliation
chronicles how far some
people and institutions will
go to silence the truth, and
how to overcome those
efforts. For more
information, visit

Amy Block Joy to talk about
By Davis Enterprise staff
From page A3
September 24, 2013

Local author and professor
Amy Block Joy will discuss
her latest book, “Retaliation,”
a first-person account about
the dangers of speaking out
in the workplace, at 7:30 p.
m. Friday, Sept. 27, at The
Avid Reader, 617 Second St.
in downtown Davis.

Block Joy, a faculty member
and director of a federal
program, discovered
apparent fraud at UC Davis.
Following university protocol,
she reported her suspicions
to her supervisor. When her
report was ignored, she blew
the whistle, asking the
university to take action.

Her allegations of misuse of
government funds were
investigated and eventually
substantiated by campus
and federal authorities.

Eleven months later, when
the fraud findings were
about to be released to the
public, she became the
target of a smear campaign.
Refusing to give in to
intimidation and fear, she
fought back and won.

“Retaliation” chronicles how
far some people and
institutions will go to silence
the truth and how to
overcome those efforts.

Block Joy, attended UC
Berkeley and has worked for
the UC system for more than
30 years. She teaches a UC
Davis freshman class called
“Eating Green.”
Blog: Kaiser Permanente
Problems at Garfield Center in
Kearny Mesa
Filing a complaint
Kaiser Permanente links
University of California Whistle-blowers/retaliation
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
San Diego Education Report
San Diego
Education Report
Blog posts re UCLA

Blog posts re UCLA

2013-2014 Urology rankings


UCLA Radiology and Medical

UCLA CareConnect

UCLA Compliance

Dr. Andrew Saxon, author of
paper on harmlessness of
indoor mold

UCLA Cull case

UCLA Dermatology

UCLA Patient Advocates

UCLA Patrick Harron to be
arraigned in burning death in
chemistry lab

Blog posts re UCLA lawsuits
Thank Heaven for
Insurance Companies blog
Kaiser Permanente links
Medical Business
Medical Cover-ups
Medical School Rankings
Medical secrecy
UCLA urology
Kaiser Cover-ups
Code of silence
Kaiser concealing
medical records
UC OKs paying surgeon $10 million in
whistleblower-retaliation case
The settlement ends a case brought
by the ex-head of UCLA's orthopedic
surgery department, who says the
medical school allowed doctors to
take industry payments that may
have compromised patient care.
By Chad Terhune
Los Angeles Times
April 22, 2014

University of California regents agreed to pay $10 million to the former chairman of
UCLA's orthopedic surgery department, who had alleged that the well-known medical
school allowed doctors to take industry payments that may have compromised patient

The settlement reached Tuesday in Los Angeles County Superior Court came just
before closing arguments were due to begin in a whistleblower-retaliation case
brought by Dr. Robert Pedowitz, 54, a surgeon who was recruited to UCLA in 2009 to
run the orthopedic surgery department.

In 2012, the surgeon sued UCLA, the UC regents, fellow surgeons and senior
university officials, alleging they failed to act on his complaints about widespread
conflicts of interest and later retaliated against him for speaking up.

UCLA denied Pedowitz's allegations, and officials said they found no wrongdoing by
faculty and no evidence that patient care was jeopardized. But the UC system paid
him anyway, saying it wanted to avoid the "substantial expense and inconvenience" of
further litigation.

[Maura Larkins' comment: Baloney.  UCLA has very deep pockets.  It invested a huge
amount of taxpayer money in the case.  The reason it settled was because it believed
it would lose.]

As department chairman, Pedowitz testified, he became concerned about colleagues
who had financial ties to medical-device makers or other companies that could unduly
influence their care of patients or taint important medical research.

He also alleged that UCLA looked the other way because the university stood to
benefit financially from the success of medical products or drugs developed by its

One of the orthopedic surgeons that Pedowitz complained about testified at trial about
receiving $250,000 in consulting fees in 2008 from device maker Medtronic. In memos
to university officials, Pedowitz raised concerns about the financial dealings of other
doctors as well.

Inside the courtroom Tuesday, Pedowitz sat in the front row with his wife and daughter
as the
judge told jurors that a settlement had been reached. He said he felt
vindicated by the outcome.

"These are serious issues that patients should be worried about," Pedowitz said in an
interview. "These problems exist in the broader medical system and they are not
restricted to UCLA."

The seven-week trial in downtown Los Angeles offered a rare glimpse into those
potential conflicts at a time when there is growing government scrutiny of industry
payments to doctors.

Starting this fall, the federal Physician Payments Sunshine Act, part of President
Obama's healthcare law, requires public disclosure of financial relationships between
healthcare companies and physicians.

Many doctors and universities defend long-standing industry arrangements as
essential for carrying out cutting-edge research and top-flight medical education.

In a statement Tuesday, the UC regents said they "resolved this lawsuit to end a
prolonged conflict and permit UCLA Health Sciences to refocus on its primary
missions of teaching, research, patient care and community engagement."

The statement added that "multiple investigations by university officials and
independent investigators concluded that conduct by faculty members was lawful.
Patient care was not compromised."

This latest settlement eclipses a $4.5-million payout the UC regents made last year to
resolve a racial discrimination lawsuit filed by another UCLA surgeon.

Pedowitz, as part of his settlement, left the UCLA faculty, effective Tuesday. He had
agreed to step down as department chairman in 2010 after initially voicing his
concerns to top UCLA officials. He filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint in March

Experts in medical ethics say the UCLA case shows much
more needs to be done within academia and by government
regulators to address potential conflicts of interest in

Susan Chimonas, associate director of research at Columbia University's Center on
Medicine as a Profession, said some medical schools are still reluctant to take on
specialists who bring in considerable money from patients, medical research and
patents on breakthrough products.

"Institutions can be dependent on the money these big-earning specialties like
orthopedic surgery bring in," Chimonas said. "They are the cash cows and they can
set their terms. This is not the first time I've heard of medical schools having policies
that are not well enforced."

In an interview last week, the chief compliance officer at the
UCLA Health System flatly rejected the notion that the
university didn't enforce its policies or look fully into
Pedowitz's allegations.
She also said industry ties are unavoidable at a big
medical school and rules are in place to prevent conflicts.

"We have processes in place to identify those relationships in a transparent fashion
and ensure they don't have any inappropriate influence on the actions of the
university," said Marti Arvin, chief compliance officer. "In order to meet our mission, it
is important we have both the brilliant minds we have at UCLA and collaboration with

Arvin said the university "thoroughly and objectively investigated those allegations of
noncompliance raised by Dr. Pedowitz. We were able to determine the vast majority
were unsubstantiated."

She said two doctors fell short of university expectations in their handling of outside
income, but there was no violation of law or university policy in either instance.

Arvin cited the case of Dr. Nick Shamie, the orthopedic surgeon who testified at trial
about receiving $250,000 from Medtronic for consulting work. She said department
policy at the time didn't require Shamie to send that outside income through UCLA's
faculty compensation plan.

At trial, Pedowitz said he was deeply troubled by the large amount of money Shamie
was paid. He testified that he was particularly concerned that Shamie was trying to
enroll patients in a research study involving Medtronic at the time.

"I saw this as an obvious problem," Pedowitz testified.

In court, Shamie said he abided by university policy and didn't pursue the study
further because finding patients was too difficult. He couldn't be reached for additional

The other physician cited by Arvin for a potential shortcoming was Dr. David
McAllister, vice chairman of clinical operations for the orthopedic surgery department.

He didn't report payments from the Musculoskeletal Transplant Foundation, a
nonprofit tissue bank that does business with UCLA, because he didn't think
disclosure was required in that instance because it didn't involve a for-profit entity,
Arvin said.

McAllister also declined to comment, referring a call to UCLA.

Shortly before Pedowitz joined UCLA in 2009, the university was already facing
criticism from Congress over the failure of a top spine surgeon to report nearly
$460,000 in payments he received from Medtronic and other medical companies while
researching their products' use in patients, government records show.

Dr. Jeffrey Wang, who left for USC Spine Center last fall, stepped down as head of
UCLA's spine program in 2009 after U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) publicized
his lapse in disclosure as part of a larger investigation into medical conflicts of interest.

Several patients are now suing Wang and UCLA in state court for negligence, fraud
and malpractice in connection with surgeries involving Medtronic's controversial Infuse
bone graft. UCLA said it doesn't comment on pending litigation. Wang couldn't be
reached for comment.

Shortly after raising his concerns, Pedowitz said, he was pressured to step down as
department chairman in 2010. Pedowitz said he was further retaliated against by
being denied patient referrals and prevented from participating in grants and other

Before UCLA, Pedowitz worked at UC San Diego and as chairman of orthopedics and
sports medicine at the University of South Florida.

Mark Quigley, an attorney representing Pedowitz, said the case could have been
avoided if the UC system enforced the policies it already has in place.

"What good are all the policies if they protect the wrongdoers
and fail to protect the actual whistleblower?" Quigley said.
"The university wanted to cover it all up."
"What good are all the
policies if they protect
the wrongdoers and
fail to protect the
actual whistleblower?"
Quigley said. "The
university wanted to
cover it all up."
More University of California
UCLA Patient
American doctor settles
discrimination suit
UCLA Medical Center Reaches $10M Settlement
with Whistleblower
The National Trial Lawyers
May 6, 2014
by Andrew Findley        

UCLA Medical Center reached $10 million settlement with whistleblowing faculty

Attorneys for UCLA Medical Center reached a last minute $10 million settlement with
a whistleblowing doctor who claimed medical industry payments compromised
patient care.  The settlement was reached just before closing arguments in Los
Angeles Superior Court...

Attorneys also claimed that false rumors about Dr. Pedowitz were spread
throughout the orthopedic department in an effort to gain support for his
removal as chairman.  Evidence was presented at trial that his retaliatory
claims weren’t investigated for more than a year after he made them, and
that he was forced to sign the 2010 settlement agreement without being
provided with documentation of the defamatory campaign.  He was finally
able to get copies after making a public records request.

Defense attorney Michael Lucey of Gordon & Rees in San Francisco
said Dr.
Pedowitz was asked to step down based on poor leadership abilities and interaction
with faculty and staff.  

Defendants also argued that the defamatory statements about Dr. Pedowitz were
substantially true and were not widely circulated

[Maura Larkins' comment:  Of course they argued that.  But then they gave
ten million reasons that indicate that they did not expect that the jury would
believe them.]

They further contended that to fulfill its mission, UCLA Medical Center had to
collaborate with industry, and that such ties are unavoidable at a research

[Maura Larkins' comment:   Sure, ties are inevitable, but those ties should not
be secret and they should not be harmful to patients and the public.  After all,
this is a public institution.]

Lucey represented the Regents of the University of California and two doctors;
Richard A. Paul of Paul Plevin & Sullivan of San Diego represented three other
doctors named as defendants.

The case is Robert Pedowitz, MD v. The Regents of the University of California, et
al.  The trial was held in Los Angeles Superior Court, case number BC 484611.
Health care watchdogs
Employees File
Lawsuit to Protect
Patient Safety
Figari Law Firm Alleges
Habitual Misconduct by
Management at Oliveview-
ULCA Medical Center, Site of
Recent Stabbing Incident, Puts
Patients Lives at Risk

Los Angeles, California
(PRWEB) November 10, 2014

The management of the Olive
View-UCLA Medical Center is
the principal defendant in a
new lawsuit that alleges
wrongdoing on the center’s
part in the treatment of its
patients and staff. The Olive
View UCLA Medical Center is a
377 bed county hospital
located in the north end of the
San Fernando Valley, about
30 minutes away from the
UCLA main campus. The
medical center primarily serves
the needs of low income and
indigent patients as well as the
surrounding middle class

The lawsuit was filed in Los
Angeles Superior Court
(BC563103) by The Figari Law
Firm of Pasadena, California
which specializes in
employment and civil rights
cases. Barbara E. Figari is the
lead trial counsel on the case.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf
of a group of 22 former and
current employees.

The Plaintiffs allege that
management maintained an
improper staff to patient ratio,
in violation of state law,
designed to maximize hospital
profits. This alleged practice
not only created an unsafe
working environment for its
employees, but also created a
habitual risk to both employee
and patient’s lives.

Furthermore, when staff
members brought this to
management’s attention and
sought to improve conditions
at the facility, they alleged that
they were retaliated against,
harassed, and threatened.
The lawsuit alleges that
management even sought
action against employee’s
licenses in retaliation to
complaints that employees
made to the proper authorities
in the matter.

This release was written and
researched by the Figari Law
Health workers strike
at UC California
medical centers
May 21, 2013
By Ronnie Cohen

Thousands of healthcare
workers walked off the job at
the University of California's
five medical centers on
Tuesday, delaying
surgeries, diagnostic
procedures, treatments and
emergency care throughout
the state.

The union representing
nearly 13,000 vocational
nurses, respiratory
therapists and radiology
technologists said they
staged the strike --
scheduled to last two days --
to draw attention to staffing
shortages that they say
undermine patient care at
the hospitals in San
Francisco, Davis, Los
Angeles, San Diego and

Some of the public hospital
system's estimated 3,400
pharmacists, social workers,
psychologists, occupational
therapists and lab scientists
also walked out on Tuesday
in a one-day sympathy strike
at the five medical centers.

"The allegation is they're
doing this for patient safety,"
UC spokeswoman Dianne
Klein said. "If we had unsafe
staffing levels, we wouldn't
be in operation. I really don't
understand how walking off
the job and leaving patients
stranded is helping them."

Todd Stenhouse,
spokesman for the American
Federation of State, County
and Municipal Employees,
which represents the striking
workers, said the union's
primary consideration was
ensuring adequate staff for
patient care.

"Our top concern is about
safe staffing, and we need
to put a stop to the diversion
of resources away from
patient care," he said. He
said the workers have been
working without a contract
since September.

Klein said the sticking point
in negotiations has been the
union's unwillingness to
agree to changes to a
pension system that most of
the university's other
workers have already
accepted. "What AFSCME
wants is a special deal for
them, and we don't think it's
fair," she said.

Proposed changes include
raising employee pension
contributions, revising
eligibility rules for retiree
health benefits, and creating
a second tier of retirement
benefits for new workers.

Tim Thrush picketed outside
UC San Francisco, where he
works as a diagnostic
sonographer, holding a sign
saying, "Striking for our
patients, our family and our

"I'm very excited and
energized to be in the
middle of hundreds of my
co-workers who are standing
up to UC and letting them
know that their messed-up
priorities that are
shortchanging patient care
on a daily basis need to
stop," said Thrush, 46.

University of California Vice
President for Human
Resources Dwaine Duckett
said his organization had
offered the workers a
four-year contract with up to
3.5 percent annual wage
increases. The average
employee in the union earns
$55,000 a year, he said.
(UCSD lawsuits) and general
Lawyers at UC
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UCLA lawsuits 2
UC general counsel