A microbiologist has won her case for unfair dismissal against a US federal agency after she blew the whistle on animal welfare and biosafety failures. The US Geological Survey (USGS) hired Evi Emmenegger as a fisheries microbiologist in 1994, and in 2006 promoted her to manager of the highest biosafety level containment laboratory at the agency’s Western Fisheries Research Center (WFRC) in Seattle. But in 2017, she became a whistleblower when she filed a scientific integrity complaint that the agency dismissed before putting her on leave in January 2020 and then firing her for alleged lapses in her research – a termination that was later retracted.
After facing some backlash from the centre’s leadership Emmenegger says that she decided to reach out for assistance to the non-profit Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which provides pro bono legal representation for whistleblowing scientists at government agencies. She ended up reporting the wastewater leaks to regulatory agencies and filed an internal scientific integrity complaint with the DOI, and Peer has served as her legal representative ever since.