The Unemployable Whistleblower

Imagine calling out your employer for committing fraud not once, not twice, but three times.

That was reality for Cecilia Guardiola, a registered nurse who worked in clinical documentation and case management for three health systems. When she couldn’t fix the problems in-house, she filed whistleblower suits under the False Claims Act against each health system, which I detailed in my story Three-Time Whistleblower Sends Warning to Providers.

Guardiola walked away from three settlements with millions, but now she cannot get hired in the health-care field according to her attorney, Mitch Kreindler. That’s a high price to pay for doing the right thing.

Some have said to me “don’t feel bad for her, she’s getting millions.” But I find that to be a cynical point of view because it assumes she had bad intentions. Kreindler told me his client gave up her dream job. That doesn’t sound like someone out to stick it to her employers.

This country loves whistleblowers. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s Watergate reporting was successful largely thanks to Mark Felt, also known as “Deep Throat.” Daniel Ellsberg still travels the country to discuss his decision to release the Pentagon Papers. Movies have been made about numerous whistleblowers, including Mark Whitacre, who exposed price fixing in the agricultural industry and was played by Matt Damon in “The Informant!”

So why should a whistleblower be blackballed? A former general counsel for a health system told me hospitals are taking steps to encourage people to come forth with issues, but admitted it will be very difficult for whistleblowers to get a job.

I asked Kreindler what it says about the health-care industry that Guardiola can’t be hired and I’ve been haunted by his answer all week: “I’m not sure it says much about health care as much as it says something about our society. We all believe there should be shelters to house the homeless, but no one wants to live next to one.”

We love watching whistleblowers hold others accountable, but we don’t want them to call us out. But if we’re that confident that whistleblowers in our society play a valid and important role, what are we afraid of?

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