Erin Brockovich – A True Office Hero

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“If you follow your heart, if you listen to your gut, and if you extend your hand to help another, not for any agenda, but for the sake of humanity, you are going to find the truth.”

― Erin Brockovich

Thanks to Julia Roberts’ Oscar winning portrayal in the film portraying this woman’s life, most people are aware of the name, Erin Brockovich, but do we all know the full story?

This is the story of a small-town office clerk who spent her days pushing papers, but ended up in a true David and Goliath battle with a utilities giant in the U.S.

Erin Brockovich led a regular life before these events, earning some modest success but never managing to settle down to pursue a single career path. She first worked as a management trainee for K-Mart and then decided to study electrical engineering. After this, she won a beauty pageant before deciding to settle down in Reno, Nevada with her husband and two children. She divorced from her husband and then got a job as a secretary, where she met her second husband, who she also ultimately divorced.

While working as a file clerk at a law firm in California’s San Fernando Valley in 1993, a job she stumbled upon after they represented her in an injury case, she discovered something in the paperwork for a pro bono real estate case that changed everything. While organising this paperwork, she came across medical records which led her to begin an investigation into a series of illnesses in a town called Hinkley in Southern California. Through her investigations, she discovered that the groundwater in Hinkley had been contaminated with hexavalent chromium, or Chromium 6, since 1952 when Pacific Gas & Electric started using this chemical to prevent corrosion in their cooling towers.

Although she was out of her league in fighting against such a huge corporation, Erin Brockovich refused to let the case drop, eventually convincing her boss, Ed Masry, to help her in pursuing justice for the residents of Hinkley.

The case was finally settled three years later in 1996, resulting in PG&E having to pay out $333 million in damages to more than 600 residents of Hinkley, making it the largest direct action lawsuit in U.S. history.

The pen was certainly mightier than the sword for Erin Brockovich, who has become an inspiration for the underdog all around the world. She has since taken advantage of her notoriety by helping others to stand up against injustice in their life, working on multiple cases relating to groundwater contamination in other U.S. states as well as other environmental projects. She has also written a book which aims to empower others to stand up for themselves and make a difference to the world.

From a simple office job where she spent most of her time organising paperwork, Erin Brockovich found the tools she needed to defeat a corporate giant within those papers, along with her dedication and tenacious spirit, becoming a true office hero.