Becky McClain
Board of Director
Alliance for Humane Biotechnology
Deep River
United States

Becky McClain is an injured worker and the first successful whistleblower in the biotech arena.

McClain is a 23 year career molecular biologist who has worked on cutting edge technologies in mouse embryonic stem cell, vaccine development, molecular genetics, neurobiology and developmental biology research within both academia and private industry. 

In 2000-2004 McClain was working in a mouse embryonic stem cell laboratory developing state-of-the art molecular technologies at Pfizer Inc, Groton Laboratories involving disease state models and drug validation biological models. At that time she saw unsafe work practices related to biocontainment issues in her department and advocated for safer work conditions.  Unfortunately, her safety concerns were ignored and squelched by Pfizer management.  In 2002, she and others began to fall ill through numerous exposures in the laboratory.  McClain then began to experience retaliation for voicing her continued concerns for biocontainment issues related public health and safety and worker safety.  In 2003 through no fault of her own, McClain endured yet another exposure at work to a human infectious genetically engineered biological agent due to a lack of biocontainment which subsequently culminated into a slow progressing serious illness.


McClain’s was terminated shortly after requesting Pfizer to provide viral exposure information necessary for her healthcare and after reporting to OSHA. Consequently, McClain was left with a serious illness, loss of her career, little legal remedy and no directed medical care for her work-related exposure to a biological agent.


Connecticut’s Workers Compensation, Department of Public Health and OSHA and all other federal regulatory agencies provided no legal protection for McClain’s health and safety complaints or protection from retaliation or termination. 


In 2006 McClain filed a civil law suit against Pfizer to protect her free speech regarding matters of public health and safety and in hopes to obtain rights to the necessary exposure records for her healthcare.


On April 1, 2010 after six years of legal battles, McClain won her lawsuit against Pfizer in violation of her whistleblower rights and her free speech.  The jury awarded McClain a judgment for damages and found that she was also entitled to punitive damages for Pfizer’s willful and wanton violation of her free speech rights involving public health and safety.


Although McClain has won her free speech and whistleblower claims, she remains disappointed in the inability to obtain her exposure records due a lack of safety regulations on the biotech industry and a lack of injured worker’s rights.  McClain also remains concerned about the current difficulties scientists face in raising issues of work safety, public health and safety or bioethical concerns.  She is also concerned about the hardships and abuses that injured workers endure throughout the U.S.  


McClain currently serves as a member of the board of directors with the Alliance for Humane Biotechnology.  She also serves on a national committee regarding injured worker’s rights.  She also has been involved in organizing public venues to increase public awareness of biotechnology and bioethical issues.


Issues related to McClain’s case:

  • Extreme legal difficulty for scientists who experience retaliation, loss of job or physical threats related to voicing safety concerns
  • Lack of OSHA protection regarding health and safety complaints related to genetic technologies and human infectious agents
  • Lack of biotech worker’s rights to a safe work environment and a lack of right to refuse work where unsafe work conditions exist.
  • Lack of biotech worker’s rights to formal safety committees in order to address health and safety complaints
  • Lack of biotech worker’s rights to exposure records necessary for healthcare
  • Lack of rights to injured workers who succumb to a work- acquired illness to obtain directed medical care and compensation for their injury.
  • Lack of regulations on industries involved with developing dangerous biotechnologies
  • Public health and safety implications regarding biotechnologies which can contribute to new emerging illness or disease.
  • Lack of free speech within the scientific community
  • Lack of transparency to the public regarding dangerous and unregulated biotech technologies and work-related illnesses.

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