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Protecting Whistleblowers from Retaliation

March 7, 2011: An employee who courageously speaks up to challenge employer conduct that places the public’s health or safety in grave danger should be protected from retaliation. In Maryland, employees who “blow the whistle” on wrongful conduct may challenge their retaliatory termination through a wrongful discharge claim if they have no other appropriate remedy available to them. Yet employers often try to narrow the range of whisteblowing activities protected by law. In its friend-of-the-court brief filed with the Maryland Court of Appeals on March 7, 2011, in Parks v. Alpharma, Inc., the Public Justice Center, along with the Maryland Employment Lawyers Association and the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers Association, sought to enhance protections for employee whistleblowers by clarifying the scope of and pleading requirements for wrongful discharge claims.

The PJC primarily argued that employees who are fired for reporting employer wrongdoing to a supervisor should be able to bring successful wrongful discharge claims. The brief explained how the rationale for protecting whistleblowers who report to outside authorities is the same for protecting internal whistleblowers and that internal whistleblowing is often preferable given that it can lead to a more efficient and cost-effective resolution to the problem. In addition, the brief argued that employees who are fired because they are suspected of imminently reporting wrongful conduct to outside authorities should also be able to bring successful wrongful discharge claims because an employee’s inquiry in preparation for reporting is an important part of the whistleblowing process.

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