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How important is a paper trail in fighting wrongful termination?

The movie "All the President's Men" tells the true story of how intrepid reporters broke the Watergate Scandal that ultimately sank the presidency of Richard Nixon back in the 1970s. The source of the most damning leads was a person identified at the time only as "Deep Throat." And a single Deep Throat line from the movie has since become a common idiom in American culture. "Follow the money."

In the context of the Watergate affair, money purportedly was the paper trail that allowed the reporters to get to the heart of the corruption that infected the Nixon White House. And while money is often the driving force behind a lot of questionable activities in government, it isn't the only paper that's important in resolving issues.

Documentation of events can be crucial in many ways, including in cases where federal workers might find they have to fight to counter illegal actions such as retaliatory termination.

This has been shown once again by the case of one Bradie Frink. Though his situation played out in a state other than Texas, it is something that could happen anywhere and so we think it deserves highlighting.

As a report in The Baltimore Sun explains, Frink is a disabled U.S. Army veteran who began working for the Department of Veterans Affairs in February 2013. Upon getting the job, Frink launched a claim to recover back payments. But the process got stalled when officials lost his paperwork. As a backstop, Frink turned to Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski for help and within weeks of that move he was fired from his VA job.

Eventually, his case was referred to the independent Office of Special Counsel. And last month, that office ruled Frink had been the victim of manager retaliation for exercising his right to petition Congress for help and ordered him rehired.

Frink says he was confident in his case because he had documented all his conversations with supervisors. And that, combined with the OSC conclusion that managers had provided inconsistent and untrustworthy testimony, helped win the day.

Not only is Frink back on the job, but he says his file turned up under in the Baltimore office and his claim for back pay has been resolved.

Never underestimate the power of paper.

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