Ousted Iowa workers’ compensation judge loses retaliation, tort appeal



A former Iowa Workers Association administrative law judge who was put on paid leave pending investigation, then fired when it was discovered she had fraudulently included her 26-year-old daughter years in the insurance provided by his employer by distorting the failure of his civil status with his trial, according to a decision of the Eighth Circuit on Monday.

Susan Ackerman had testified a few months earlier before the Iowa Senate government oversight committee that was against Teresa Wahlert, who was the director of Iowa Workforce Development, the agency where Ackerman worked.

She claimed that the investigation launched into her insurance coverage for her daughter – who was estranged but still officially married – was a reimbursement for the testimony and that Wahlert defamed her during her testimony before the committee.

But a performance appraisal Wahlert gave Ackerman after their testimony was not adverse employment action under the state’s whistleblower law, the United States Court of Appeals said. for the eight circuit.

Ackerman did not allege that this affected her salary or that she would have gotten a higher raise had Wahlert given her a better assessment, Judge Roger L. Wollman said.

Even though his paid suspension was an unfavorable action at work under the Whistleblower Act, Ackerman did not show that the employees involved in the insurance fraud investigation were aware of his testimony in the Senate, said the judge.

“So Ackerman did not present evidence to show that the decision to suspend her with pay was more than a logical response to allow time for an investigation,” Wollman said.

Likewise, she did not show retaliation to the whistleblower over her dismissal, as Wahlert and the two main ALJs Ackermans also criticized during his testimony were not involved in the dismissal decision, the Eighth Circuit said.

Ackerman’s retaliation claims under federal and state constitutional law have failed for similar reasons, he said.

Wahlert was immune to Ackerman’s libel claim because Wahlert’s testimony in the Senate took place in the course of his job, Wollman said.

And Wahlert only mentioned Ackerman as an example to illustrate a point, he said.

None of the faults Ackerman attributed to the state and the other defendants was outrageous enough to warrant an intentional claim of emotional distress, Wollman said, claiming a lower court.

Justices Steven M. Colloton and Jonathan A. Kobes joined the opinion.

Duncan Green PC represented Ackerman. The state attorney general’s office represented the accused.

The case is Ackerman v. Iowa, 2021 BL 463412, 8th Cir., N ° 20-2226, 12/6/21.


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