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Michigan jury awards $100k to woman who says she lost her job for refusing to falsify contamination data

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A jury awarded $100,000 to a woman who says she lost her job after refusing to falsify blood test results of children exposed to lead-contaminated water in Flint, her lawyer said Tuesday.

April Cook-Hawkins worked at the Genesee County health department for approximately four to five months before being forced to quit in 2016, said her attorney, Carol Laughbaum.

The department said Cook-Hawkins was ousted over her performance, but the jury didn’t accept that reason last Friday and awarded $100,000 for emotional distress, Laughbaum said.

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“They (the health department) said she wasn’t a team player. Virtually nothing at trial showed she wasn’t a team player,” the lawyer said.

Cook-Hawkins told jurors that she was directed to record lead-level results that she knew were inaccurate.

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“The county had two sets of records: Blue sheets with actual testing data and doctored versions, white sheets, with handwritten corrections showing perfect lead levels,” Laughbaum said.

Michael Edmunds, a lawyer who represented then-nurse director Toni LaRocco, said he was disappointed with the trial result.

“I am currently in the process of advising the county about its options,” he said.

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Residents of the majority-Black city were exposed to lead when the city pulled water from the Flint River in 2014-15 without treating it to reduce the corrosive effect on old pipes. The city returned to a regional water supplier in fall 2015.

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