In a common law wrongful discharge action in which plaintiffs allege that they were terminated for disclosing their supervisor’s unprovoked attacks on Iraqui civilians, the Virginia Supreme Court held that the trial judge erred in instructing the jury that the plaintiff must prove that their former employer’s illegal motive for terminating them was the sole cause of the termination decision. Instead, plaintiffs can prevail by demonstrating by a preponderance of the evidence that the termination occurred because of factors that violate Virginia’s public policy.
The Order in Schmidt, et al. v. Triple Canopy, Inc., No. 072556, (Va., December 12, 2008) is available here. For information on The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Wrongful Termination practice, click here.
This morning, Principal Scott Oswald of The Employment Law Group® law firm was interviewed by Federal News Radio about federal whistleblower protections. In the interview, Mr. Oswald provided insight on whistleblower protections for federal employees and offered recommendations to strengthen the Whistleblower Protection Act. For more information about The Employment Law Group® law firm’s Whistleblower Protection Act practice, click here.
In an appeal to the Fourth Circuit, The Employment Law Group® law firm argues that the district court erred in Stone v. Instrumentation Laboratory Spa, by improperly delegating its de novo review to the Department of Labor (“DOL”) in violation of the plain meaning and intent of the whistleblower provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (“SOX”). The district court ignored the plain and unambiguous language of the relevant SOX provisions when it remanded the case to the Administrative Review Board for a final decision on Stone’s SOX complaint without producing new or independent factual findings. Congress expressly confers a right to a de novo action in district court if DOL has not issued a final decision within 180 days of filing the complaint. If permitted to stand, the district court’s flawed interpretation of Section 1514A will undermine the clear intent of Congress and will prevent SOX whistleblowers from bringing their cases in federal court.
On December 16, 2008, Judge Rosemary M. Collyer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia denied defendant’s motion to dismiss in Mr. Stephen Amos’s whistleblower retaliation claim against the District of Columbia under the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act. In his complaint, Mr. Amos, the former Chief of Staff for the District of Columbia Department of Transportation, alleges, among other things, that the District of Columbia terminated his employment because he disclosed fraudulent contracting practices. D.C. asserted that Mr. Amos’s disclosures are not protected under the D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act because given the broad discretion and available waivers in the contracting regulations, it was not reasonable for Mr. Amos to believe that anything he reported was illegal. Judge Collyer rejected defendant’s argument, holding that Mr. Amos’ complaint alleges that he complained about more than noncompliance with contracting rules; “he complained about fraud, which is illegal under the applicable contracting regulations” and “because Mr. Amos had a reasonable basis to believe that fraud was illegal, his disclosures were ‘protected disclosure[s]” within the meaning of the WPA.’” A copy of the opinion is available here, and information about The Employment Law Group® law firm’s D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act practice is available here.
In a recent article titled, “Whistleblowers May Have a Friend in the Oval Office,” the Washington Post reports that President-elect Obama and his advisers favor more robust whistleblower protections for federal employees. According to the article, Obama has an ongoing history of supporting whistleblowers. As an attorney, Obama represented Janet Chandler in her qui tam case against Cook County Hospital. As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama endorsed legislation that would strengthen current whistleblower protections for federal employees. According to the article, there is a good chance that legislation strengthening whistleblower protections for federal employees will pass in the near future. Recently, The Employment Law Group® law firm obtained a landmark decision on the meaning of reasonable belief under the Whistleblower Protection Act in Drake v. Agency for International Development, where the Federal Circuit held that a whistleblower does not need to prove that he disclosed an actual violation of the law, but instead that he had a reasonable belief that there was a violation of a law, rule or regulation. For more information on the Whistleblower Protection Act and our firm’s Whistleblower Practice, click here.