Fort Bend Lawsuit Says Government Contractor Tried To Force Worker To Understate Injuries In Afghanistan

It seems like those giant government contractors working in war zones are always getting into trouble. Or at least getting sued.

Over the last year or so, Hair Balls has brought you stories about Halliburton/KBR workers being accused in court of rape, running and encouraging employees to visit a Thai brothel, and exposing military personnel to contaminated food, water, and improperly incinerated human remains. One man even claims he saw a wild dog running around base with someone's arm in its mouth.

Today, we bring you a new twist on an old theme: medical-records fraud.

This time, the target of a lawsuit in Fort Bend district court is Fluor, a Texas-based corporation that describes itself as a "FORTUNE 500 company that delivers engineering, procurement, construction, maintenance ... and project management to governments and clients in diverse industries around the world."

In the other corner is Jon Cole of Friendswood, who says he was a Government Service-rated employee serving in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2004, a licensed U.S. Department of Defense Uniformed Services Army contractor, and most recently had a six-month contract working for Fluor in Afghanistan as a Health Safety and Environmental Manager.

Everything was going well, according to the lawsuit, until Cole found himself on a sticky wicket when he was asked to falsify medical documents used to record injuries, which were then presented to the U.S. government and used to grade Fluor's performance. The fewer the injuries, Cole claims, the better the job Fluor was perceived as doing and the more money the company stood to earn.

Cole alleges that he was ordered to change the status of injuries and illnesses from recordable cases to non-recordable and, as his lawyer Gregg Rosenberg told Hair Balls, to decrease the severity of injuries.

But Cole claims he refused to play ball. He argues that if he had gone along he could have been criminally prosecuted under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and risked the possibility of being sentenced to time in a federal prison.

Because Cole would not do as he was told, he claims, Fluor retaliated and harassed him to the point that he couldn't take it any longer. "He was constructively discharged," says Rosenberg, "meaning the circumstances are so unbearable that he was compelled to resign."

Cole is suing Fluor under the Sabine Pilot doctrine, which is the sole exception to an at-will employment contract. The worker must prove that they were fired or adversely effected solely because they refused to perform an illegal act.

Fluor's motivation for trying to force Cole to falsify and downplay the severity and number of injuries in written reports, Cole claims in the lawsuit, was because if Fluor "was shown to display good performance with lesser recordable incidents, it would be inline to realize significant monetary gains."

Hair Balls called Fluor and will let you know if someone there responds to the allegations.

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