The law isn’t just about keeping bad people from doing the wrong thing. Sometimes it also protects the ability of good people to do the correct one.
Such is the case in whistleblower matters, and it takes dedicated attorneys to ensure an individual’s rights are protected.
“I think there is a real satisfaction in being able to help employees when they are going through a very hard time,” said Athena M. Dickson, a partner at Siro Smith Dickson in Kansas City. “We see these cases. We see that employees do want to make the right choices and do want to follow the law.”
That was the issue at stake in Rosemary Salerno v. MPI Management LLC, in which Dickson’s client, a shopping district manager, alleged that a supervisor instructed her to divert parking meter funds from charitable purposes to operating expenses and fired her for refusing to do so.
The court returned a multimillion-dollar whistleblower and retaliation award for Salerno.
“It is clear from the verdict that Athena persuaded the jury about how wrongly her client was treated,” wrote Dickson’s nominator, who called her a leader inside and outside of her firm. “She has the uncanny ability to make people feel important and valued and [is] able to translate that skill to a jury trial and empower them to return verdicts for her cases.”
A Kansas City native, Dickson decided she wanted to work in the legal field while she was in high school. After a stint as a paralegal, she enrolled and graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law. She focuses her practice on personal injury, employment discrimination, workers’ compensation claims and Social Security disability matters.
Dickson said cases such as the Salerno litigation make a difference.
“As with any whistleblower case, it is important for employees to feel like they shouldn’t have to violate laws to keep continued employment . . .” she said. “I think that these cases are important to pursue to send a message that this behavior is not tolerated.”
That’s why Dickson is committed to ensuring that her clients’ rights are protected and that they get their day in court, she said.
“We work so hard at our jobs, and we put everything we have into them,” she said. “I really like representing employees who are hard workers and have worked at positions for a long time and then, due to circumstances they cannot control, they are discriminated or retaliated against. To be able to help them navigate the litigation and put them in a better place where they can close this chapter of their life and move forward is why I prefer this area of the law.”
Dickson, who originally planned to be a prosecutor, is also very active in the legal community. She served as the 2020 president of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association and also is a past president of the Association for Women Lawyers of Greater Kansas City.
She has a simple philosophy for helping those she represents.
“I think the best thing I can do for my clients is to listen to them and allow them to be heard,” Dickson said. “A lot of times, what they are feeling is that they were just stuck with the circumstances and had no control over them. This allows them to get control back. Just listening to them and knowing what they are looking for is important.”