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A federal appeals court reversed a lower court on Thursday and reinstated retaliation and wrongful termination charges filed by a whistleblower who was fired after complaining about possible environmental violations by the U.S. Army Reserve Command.
Aaron Killgore, who was hired by San Antonio-based SpecPro Professional Services LLC, consulted on a project for the Army Reserve that involved evaluation of the environmental impact of using a site in Conroe, Texas, as a helicopter staging area, according to the ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco in Aaron Kilgore v. SpecPro Professional Services LLC.
The Army Reserve provides environmental and training support services for the Mountain View, California-based 63rd Regional Support Command.
Mr. Killgore became concerned that the Conroe site had been used for prior helicopter activity without a lease agreement authorizing the Army Reserve to use the site, and because reports on the property’s environmental condition and on endangered species had not been requested.
After he disagreed with an instruction to not keep a written record of the prior use issues concerning the site, an Army Reserve officer complained about him, and he was terminated.
Mr. Killgore sued SpecPro, charging retaliation and wrongful termination in violation of the California Whistleblower Protection Act. The U.S. District Court in San Jose dismissed the case and was overturned by a three-judge appeals court panel.
The lower court erred in determining that Mr. Killgore’s disclosures were not protected under the state whistleblower statute “and therefore disregarded evidence material to his claims,” the panel said
“Properly considered, the evidence raises genuine disputes of material fact as to the nature of Killgore’s disclosures, whether he had reasonable cause to believe that federal law was being violated and whether his whistleblowing activity was a contributing factor in his termination of employment,” the ruling said, in reversing the lower court and remanding the case for further proceedings.
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.