Thousands of citizens observe wrongdoing everyday. Many remain indifferent, many look the other way for fear of economical and social repercussions in the event that they oppose the system. However, a few step forward and bring the offenses to light on behalf of the innocent individuals affected.
W. Mark Felt-1972
Shortly before his death, former F.B.I. agent W. Mark Felt admitted to being the infamous “Deep Throat” source who provided Washington Post reporters Carl Bernstein and Robert Woodward with information that led to exposing the Watergate scandal. President Richard M. Nixon resigned in 1974. Presidential advisor John Ehrlichman and White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman were among the government employees convicted and sentenced to prison. Felt was convicted of a number of civil rights violations, but received a pardon form President Ronald Reagan in 1981.
During the 1970s, the Labor Department stipulated that steel manufacturers reserve 20 percent of employment positions for women and minority men. Lois Jenson became one of several females working for the Eveleth Iron Min in Minnesota. The women immediately endured the wrath of male co-workers in the form of abusive language, intimidation, unwanted physical contact and threats. Jenson brought complaints to the company’s CEOs and received no satisfaction. Jenson filed complaints with the Minnesota Human Rights Department. Courts ordered Eveleth to pay monetary damages. The company reportedly refused.
In 1988, Jenson hired Paul Sprenger, as the attorney who filed the first sexual harassment class action lawsuit against Eveleth on behalf of the female employees. Though Jenson and the women determined to fight for justice suffered character assassinations, the battle continued. In 1998, the Eight Circuit Court of Appeals accepted the case, which went before a jury trial. The women won a $3.5 million settlement.
Brockovich uncovered the correlation between the illnesses of Hinkley, California residents and the water pollution created by Pacific Gas and Electric Company, also referred to as PG&E. Local citizens of all ages suffered from an inordinate amount of cancer and other mysterious illness diagnoses. Brockovich discovered that the town’s water contained hexavalent chromium and encouraged her employer, attorney Edward Masry, to file a class action lawsuit against the corporation. Three years after Brockovich’s investigation’s began, the court awarded Hinkley residents $333 million. The case made history as the largest court settlement awarded for a direct action lawsuit.
The precedent setting case became the subject of the 2000 Academy Award winning movie “Erin Brockovich,” which starred Julia Roberts in the title role. Since the PG&E trial, Brockovich continued dedicating her private and professional life to fighting for the health and safety of private citizens. Founder of Brockovich Research & Consulting, the environmental advocate now works with national and international attorneys on behalf of communities.
Peter Wendt is an avid writer and researcher from the great state of Texas. If you’re in need of an employment attorney, click here for more information.