A former Paramount Pictures employee who says the company’s Executive Vice President of Industrial Relations embezzled union funds and then staged a cover-up has filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with federal authorities, accusing the studio of retaliating against her and driving her into a suicidal depression.
According to Deadline Hollywood, Nicole Goluskin submitted her retaliation complaint to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the federal agency charged with enforcing whistleblower provisions under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and 21 other whistleblower statutes in a multitude of industries. The provisions prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who voice concerns over violations and misconduct in the workplace.
Ms. Goluskin alleges that in Decemebr 2012, just one month into her job at Paramount, she learned that labor relations chief Stephen Koppekin “was embezzling money from the pension and health care funds of various entertainment industry labor unions, and had been doing so for many years,” according to her complaint.
In the OSHA complaint, she says:
“Mr. Koppekin began sending me duplicate itineraries and receipts for his travels on behalf of these funds. One set of receipts was for calendaring, while the other set of receipts were to be used later on for expense reimbursement. The receipts for expense reimbursement were much more expensive than the receipts for the actual costs of his travels. In his instructions, he told me that his intent was to submit the inflated receipts and pocket the difference of those costs. Upon review of his expenses files from the past two years, I discovered clear records of his practice of submitting fraudulent receipts and pocketing the difference in profit. I realized then that Mr. Koppekin was routinely generating fraudulent and inflated receipts for travel and other expenses as a standard practice. He then instructed me to collect and save the fraudulent receipts for later submission. I collected the receipts, but refused to submit the fraudulent receipts as proper expenses.”
She backs up her accusations with copies of receipts that she says proves the alleged fraud and says that they are “just the tip of the iceberg.”
She first reported the alleged fraud internally, but instead of properly addressing her concerns, she says Paramount executives hatched a scheme to “try to freak her out” in an apparent effort to force her to leave the company.
To back that claim, Ms. Goluskin submitted a chain of emails between a top human resources executive and a post-production executive that briefly details a plan they came up with to trick her into accepting a severance package and leaving the company.
Ms. Goluskin alleges the human resources executive threatened and shouted at her that same day, offering her an inferior position in post-production or severance. She says the meeting left her “absolutely crushed and devastated.”
Ms. Goluskin tells OSHA she took the post-production job, but “They made it so intolerable for me to work there … I had a nervous breakdown after only a week.”
She took a month-long hiatus amid the breakdown and returned to Paramount in a “superfluous” job in human resources. She was repeatedly denied requests for transfers to positions with more value and job security, and eventually the studio included her in a round of layoffs.
According to Deadline Hollywood, Ms. Goluskin admittedly suffers from bi-polar disorder and claimed on Facebook that her ordeal with Paramount exacerbated her condition, which she successfully kept in check for years previously.
“Unfortunately, this injustice and dream wreckage caused me to become terribly and suicidally depressed,” she wrote, according to Dealine Hollywood. “… I’m still not entirely well, but I’m going to see my Paramount case all the way through until justice is served.”