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Kristin Murphy, KSL, File

University of Utah ordered to cover lawyer fees for ex-employee in whistleblower lawsuit

By Annie Knox, KSL | Posted - May 2, 2019 at 1:15 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge has ordered the University of Utah to cover more than $200,000 in attorney fees for a former employee who raised concerns that researchers studying children with autism breached ethics and privacy standards.

A jury last year found administrators violated whistleblower protections and awarded $119,640 in lost wages and some lawyer fees to Judith Zimmerman, the former director of the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

Zimmerman argued she lost her job in retaliation for reporting that her colleagues had accessed the registry without proper permission. Jurors ruled against another claim that the university's psychiatry department terminated her based on bogus performance evaluations.

U.S. District Judge Jill Parrish ordered the new payment of roughly $216,800 on Friday.

"I'm pleased that we've got the attorneys fees and the costs for my salary," said Zimmerman, who is now retired. But she believes the issues she identified when she first sued in 2013 have not been remedied by the university, she added.

The university in a statement said it is "disappointed in this decision and is seeking advice from the gttorney general’s office regarding an appeal."

Another claim Zimmerman brought alleging breach of contract was transferred to state court, where it remains pending.

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