Friday, November 29, 2013

Bohac v. Department of Agriculture case brief

Bohac v. Department of Agriculture case brief summary
239 F.3d 1334 (2001)

Petitioner successfully appealed her removal from a research geneticist position with respondent federal agency under the Whistleblower Protection Act. She filed a motion for pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses. The Merit Systems Protection Board upheld an administrative law judge's decision denying non-pecuniary losses. Petitioner sought review of that decision.

Petitioner sought non-pecuniary damages for physical and emotional suffering, damage to her professional and personal reputation, and damages for various injuries to her family life.


  • The court concluded that the term "changes" in 5 U.S.C.S. § 1221(g)(1)(A)(ii), was to be construed as "damages" because the reference to "changes" was obviously a mistake and the term "damages" was referenced in the legislative history. 
  • The term "consequential damages" as used in 5 U.S.C.S. § 1221(g) was limited to reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs and did not include non-pecuniary damages because a whistleblowing claim did not fit into the categories of cases awarding mental suffering for a breach of contract and the term did not have a well-defined common law meaning in the more applicable wrongful discharge context. If 
  • Congress had intended to allow broad recovery for non-pecuniary damages, it would have used a term more consistent with that intent, such as compensatory damages. 
  • Moreover, non-pecuniary damages were not similar to the types of damages listed in § 1221(g)(1)(A)(ii). Finally, the legislative history made no mention of compensatory or other non-pecuniary damages.

Decision was affirmed because term "consequential damages" as used in Whistleblower Protection Act was limited to reimbursement of out-of-pocket costs and did not include non-pecuniary damages.

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