Whistleblower gets $75k for ‘asbestos’ claim in PAL center
The police officer who won a lawsuit saying he was wrongfully retaliated against by the city after making a good faith report regarding asbestos found in a Police Athletic League (PAL) center basement will get $75,000 in back-pay for medical leave under a settlement agreement reached last week.Officer Paul Zenak’s suit alleged that he was harassed after, in late 2011, he alerted superiors about shoddy work by a contractor assigned to clean up reported asbestos in the homework room of the Wissinoming PAL, which Zenak had at that time had led for three years.
When Zenak persistently asked superiors about the cleanup, he started to receive intimidating letters from superior officers.
Several months after reporting the problems and reportedly experiencing harassment, Zenak went on medical leave for about a year, and upon return was transferred to a different department.
“He was right. He took a significant risk in speaking up and he was punished for it,” said Zenak’s lawyer, Aaron Freiwald, after a verdict in Zenak’s favor was announced in February.
The jury delivering the verdict also ordered the city to reinstate Zenak to the PAL division and pay his attorney’s fees, in addition to the back-pay and approximately $400 in medical fees.
Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey testified at the trial on the nature of “counseling letters” and how PAL centers are generally supervised.
The city’s attorneys reportedly intend to appeal the jury verdict.