Retaliatory Firing Of PA State Department Of Corrections, Cambridge Springs Facility Results In Job Reinstatement, A $99,000.00 Award For Backpay, And An Award Of $153,000.00 For Reimbursement Of Attorney’s Fees And Costs

by William Jorden on June 21, 2011

by William T. Jorden, Esquire

In the case of Clifford Van Tassel v. Marilyn S. Brooks, Civ Act No. 02-166, United States District Court, Clifford Van Tassel worked as the maintenance manager for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at its SCI Cambridge Springs prison. After a new superintendent was assigned to the prison, Van Tassel complained to his superiors that the new superintendent was misappropriating public funds, without proper approval, and was spending exorbitant sums of money on her personal state-owned residence. Shortly afterwards, Van Tassel was accused of undermining the superintendent’s authority, and for making racially derogatory comments. On April 13, 2002, the DOC terminated Van Tassel’s employment. Van Tassel denied the accusations made against him and hired the Law Firm of Jorden and White to get his job back. With Attorney Bill Jorden as lead counsel, a law suit was filed in Federal Court based on protected speech and whistleblower protection.

Attorney Jorden argued that the reasons given by the state for firing Van Tassel were pretectual, that the real reason Van Tassel was fired was in retaliation because he blew the whistle on a Department of Corrections superintendent. A March, 2005 jury trial resulted in a plaintiff’s verdict. A final court order was entered on August 25, 2005 awarding Van Tassel back wages and interest in the amount of $99,063.24, reimbursement of attorney’s fees in the amount of $130,000.00, reimbursement of costs in the amount of $23,000.00, and full reinstatement of Van Tassel’s job status with the DOC, including all past and future benefits.

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