A psychiatrist who cared for severely mentally ill inmates at a California prison claimed that he was blacklisted for testifying about staffing issues at the prison’s mental hospital. The psychiatrist spent 18 months working for the California Department of State Hospitals through the Salinas Valley Psychiatrist Program on the grounds of the Salinas State Prison. The doctor co-signed a letter to the head of the program stating that psychiatrists were caring for up to 60 patients at a time, a workload that he claimed was too heavy.

The doctor quit working for the state in March 2013. In June, he applied through a staffing agency for a staff psychiatric position at Salinas Valley State Prison. A few days after applying, the doctor said that he received an email from an official at the hospital that stated that he’d been approved for the position. Several weeks later, he testified in United States District Court about the Salinas Valley Psychiatrist Program. The judge in the case ordered an investigation of the program and the staffing levels. Now the doctor claims that his employee rights have been violated.

The psychiatrist claims that the application for the new position was suddenly declined shortly after his testimony. Prison officials said that the reason for the decline was a review of the psychiatrist’s state file. However, the psychiatrist claims that his file contains no negative information. He believes that he’s being punished for signing the letter and testifying in court.

Fear of retaliation or punishment is a major reason why many employees are reluctant to speak out against inappropriate or unethical work environments and practices. Employees have the right to voice their concerns. An attorney with experience in representing whistleblowers could help an employee understand their rights and speak out in a manner that protects their rights and employment.

Source: Southern California Public Radio, “Whistleblower at facility for mentally ill prisoners claims he was blacklisted“, Julie Small, July 26, 2013