Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Jury awards $730K to UCD whistleblower

From page A1 | August 13, 2014 |

After a four-week trial that stemmed from a complaint filed in 2007, a verdict was reached late Monday in the case of Keyzer vs. UC Regents.

Janet Keyzer, the plaintiff in the case, was awarded $730,000; $330,000 for lost future earnings and $400,000 for noneconomic factors such as emotional distress.

Keyzer’s attorney, Mary-Alice Coleman of Davis, said by phone, “This has gone on for seven years, in a legal battle of unreal proportions.” Coleman also lamented the “waste of taxpayer money.”

The case began when Keyzer, a former UC Davis nurse researcher at the UCD Center for Healthcare Policy and Research in Sacramento, filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint against UCD in January 2008.

The Enterprise reported in September 2009, “Keyzer alleges that she repeatedly brought to the attention of her supervisor that the project on which she was working, which was intended to evaluate pain diagnosis and treatment in state prisons, did not meet research requirements involving human subjects.”

UCD’s statement received by The Enterprise on Tuesday states that “Ms. Keyzer and other members of the research team abstracted data from prisoner medical records. Ms. Keyzer became concerned that this activity technically constituted ‘human subject research’ within the meaning of the applicable Institutional Review Board regulations and therefore required IRB approval.”

Keyzer’s then-husband, Ken, an information technology specialist also working on the project, was fired after an investigation began that was triggered by her complaint.

“Janet Keyzer believes he was fired to punish her for speaking out and as an attempt to intimidate her, according to her attorney,” The 2009 Enterprise story reported.

As funding for the research program was pulled based on findings by the IRB, Keyzer was offered another short-term project, which she turned down. At that point, she was let go.

After numerous delays along the way, a trial began on June 30. Coleman argued that her client suffered extensive losses, including the end of her career and the failure of her marriage.

“Ms. Keyzer was retaliated against, which the university has adamantly denied from day one,” Coleman said.

A call to one of the attorneys representing the UC Regents — George Acero, of Gordon Rees LLP’s Sacramento office — resulted in a referral to UCD’s Strategic Communications Department.

UCD spokesperson Andy Fell summed up the case by saying that the university takes whistleblower complaints very seriously. In this particular case, where there was a “layoff situation,” an employee can expect “a similar kind of position. (Keyzer) was told she’d be appointed without having to apply for it.”

Fell said that the reason Keyzer was not offered a permanent position was because she worked on grant-funded projects that were “soft money, and when the grant-funding ends, the position ends.”

Speaking for the plaintiff, Coleman said in a statement on Tuesday, “Good governance demands that people stand up to wrong-doing. In this case, Janet Keyzer stood up to a powerful and influential multi-billion dollar organization — the Regents of the University of California — to protect not only those who are unable to protect themselves, but also to protect the best interests of the UC system, and the integrity of its research efforts.”

Fell explained that for now, UCD is “reviewing the verdict and considering our options.”

— Reach Tanya Perez at 530-747-8056 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at @enterprisetanya



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