Whistleblower lawsuit against Shaw revived by 1st Circuit

An appeals court has revived a former Shaw employee’s claim that he was harassed, demoted and ultimately fired for reporting alleged illegal activities in Louisiana’s home-elevation grant program and for assisting law enforcement.

Mark Pilie’s lawsuit against Shaw Environmental & Infrastructure Inc. previously was thrown out by state District Judge Janice Clark, who said the suit filed Jan. 29, 2013, was done so a few days too late.

Pilie argued he was fired Feb. 17, 2012, after Shaw rejected his Jan. 27, 2012, attempt to resign.

A five-judge panel of the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed Clark by a 4-1 decision Thursday and sent the case back to her.

“The decision clears the way for Mr. Pilie to move forward on his claims,” his attorney, Jill Craft, said Friday. “He stood up against tremendous pressure and for what is right for the taxpayers and homeowners in storm-ravaged south Louisiana. His sincerest hope is that what happened in the aftermath of the devastation does not happen again.”

A Shaw spokeswoman has said previously the company does not comment on pending litigation but is committed to a workplace free from any form of discrimination, harassment or retaliation.

CB&I acquired The Shaw Group in February 2013.

The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, a federally funded home-elevation program, was put in place after Hurricane Katrina struck in August 2005. Under the program, homeowners in flood-prone areas can receive grants of up to $100,000 to elevate their homes.

Pilie, who was hired by Shaw in September 2005, claims in his suit that he wore a recording device during a meeting with elevation contractors in mid-2011 and turned the recording over to a Jefferson Parish sheriff’s deputy. The deputy had asked that Pilie wear a wire to record the meeting, the suit says.

Pilie, of St. Tammany Parish, contends he recorded an elevation contractor admitting he had given money and jewelry to Courage Idusuyi, but the contractor called the money and jewelry a gift. Idusuyi was the state’s production team leader for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

The state Office of Community Development, which administers the program, announced in August 2011 the suspension of Idusuyi and another state supervisor, David Knight.

Idusuyi was fired at the end of 2011, and Knight resigned in March 2012.

The Office of Community Development began investigating the grant program’s policies and procedures in summer 2011 after two self-described whistleblowers — former Shaw workers Christy Weiser and Thomas Pierson — sued Shaw and OCD. Their suit accused state officials of selling confidential information about homeowners and steering work to contractors in exchange for meals and gifts.

Craft also represents Weiser and Pierson.

Other agencies also launched probes into the home-elevation program, including the federal Homeland Security Inspector General and the state Attorney General’s Office.