Shegerian Law Whistleblower Alert: UNC Literacy Scandal

Carney R. Shegerian, founder of Shegerian & Associates, a Santa Monica-based law firm specializing in employee rights, has issued a statement aimed at all employees and employers in light of a recent high profile case concerning University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH). In the case, the Government Accountability Project (GAP), a whistleblower watchdog group, claims university officials have made efforts to smear whistleblower Mary Willingham. A literacy specialist, Willingham disclosed in a research report that many past UNC-CH student-athletes could not read at a third-grade level.

In January of this year, a CNN report showcased Willingham’s research, which revealed that an estimated 8-10 percent of UNC-CH revenue-sport student athletes from 2004-12 read below a third-grade level and that some were functionally illiterate. GAP now claims that Willingham faced retaliation and harassment from university officials following the CNN story, including public questioning of her research. Willingham had acted as a whistleblower once before, a few years ago, exposing the school’s much-publicized “paper class” scandal.

Shegerian stated that while all the facts remain to be divulged, what is known about the situation serves as a good reminder to employers and employees alike that retaliating against whistleblowers is unlawful in any state.

“This situation at UNC-CH is still evolving, but regardless of the ultimate outcome, it already serves an important lesson to be learned and that is that retaliation against an employee because of her reporting of facts that may appear unflattering to the employer is wrongful and illegal,” said Shegerian. “Perhaps more importantly, it is crucial that employees who are retaliated against in such a manner take a stand, speak up and go public. We applaud GAP for their diligence in bringing such high profile cases to light.”

An experienced trial attorney and Trial Lawyer of the Year Award winner for 2013, Shegerian has tried many jury trials to verdict in both state and federal court, representing individuals that have suffered financial or emotional losses and have been wronged by employers, including major corporations. Shegerian has built a remarkable career on helping those who have been wronged in the workplace. His remarkable success rate is highlighted by over 68 jury trial wins, including 28 seven and eight figure verdicts representing employees.



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