Recently a federal jury awarded former biotech scientist Becky McClain $1.7 million in damages after finding that Pfizer terminated her employment after she became sick with a bioengineered virus and then complained about safety issues. While the actual complaint of contracting the paralyzing virus through workplace safety inadequacies was dismissed by a judge due to lack of evidence, the jury did find that Pfizer violated whistleblower and free speech laws when it fired her.
Many workers’ advocates have long pressed for better regulation and safer conditions in biotech facilities fearing just this sort of event. Ms. McClain claimed was stonewalled repeatedly when she tried to get the genetic code for the virus being told it was a trade secret.
According to consumer advocate Ralph Nader, “It’s a field that has been trade-secreted out of the sunlight.” Nader has taken an interest in the case and has spoken numerous time with McClain. She spoke of situations where desks were right next to biological experiments being conducted and other safety problems.
McClain now suffers from a debilitating illness of partial temporary paralysis caused by a severe potassium deficiency. She believes she contracted this virus from a coworker’s experiment. This case has caused OSHA to reevaluate and improve regulations concerning biotech materials.
Tennessee law protects workers from workplace safety hazards and retaliation against those who would bring hazardous conditions to light. If you suspect you have been injured on the job or have experienced retaliation after calling attention to what you feel to be unsafe conditions, please contact us via email or call 1-800-705-2121. You do not have to suffer in silence.