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Court of Appeals throws out woman's whistleblower protection act judgment

Barbara Hays secured a judgment against Lutheran Social Services, her employer, after she was terminated for violating her employment confidentiality agreement.  The testimony established that she called the local drug task force to find out whether she would be violating any criminal statute if she knew of drug use in her presence and failed to report it to authorities.  She did not report the drug use, however.

When she admitted making the call to a supervisor, she was fired.  She filed a lawsuit arguing that it was illegal to fire her for "blowing the whistle" on illegal conduct through making a "report" of illegal activity.  The trial judge entered an award in her favor, however, the Court of Appeals overturned it.  The higher court ruled that since she didn't actually "report" illegal behavior, she was not entitled to the protections of the whistleblower act.  Since she was "merely seeking to obtain information and advice," firing her for making the call was not a violation of the WPA.   Surprisingly, the Court concluded that "categorizing the plaintiff's behavior as a 'report' under the WPA would not further the purpose of the statute, namely, to protect the public by encouraging reporting of illegal activity."  No., but firing someone for making such a phone call certainly discourages the reporting of illegal activity...

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