Whenever an employee is terminated for making a complaint or refusing to take action which the employee reasonably believes is illegal, it is critical to carefully review the nature of the employer’s business relationships. While the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law, 43 P. S. § 1423, is often cited as only applying to employees in the public sector, the law has been interpreted much more broadly. In Ellis v. Allegheny Specialty Practice Network, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13409 (W. D. Pa. February 1, 2013) (Cercone, J.), the court made it clear that the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law can apply to private employers.
In Ellis, the Plaintiff alleged that in the course of his employment he was asked to provide medical treatment which he believed to be unethical, non-consensual and below the standard of care. Plaintiff declined to perform the treatment, reported the conduct to his supervisor and an internal compliance office, and shortly thereafter his employment was terminated.
Under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law an employer may not discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee because the employee makes a good faith report to the employer or appropriate authority of wrongdoing or waste. However, the law does not apply unless the employer, for whom the employee worked, meets the legal definition of “Employer.” While it is clear that the state and any county, city, township, regional, council, school district, special district or municipal corporation, or board, department, commission, council or agency are “Employers”, the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law does not apply to private employers unless the private employer meets the definition of “any other body which is . . . funded in any amount by or through Commonwealth or political subdivision authority. . .”
In Ellis, the issue was whether a private hospital Defendant is a public body (meeting the definition of “Employer”) because it received Medicaid reimbursements and MCARE payments. The Court relied upon the Pennsylvania Superior Court’s decisions in Riggio v. Burns, 711 A.2d 497 (Pa. Super. 1998), which determined that a private medical provider could be a “public body” under the Whistleblower Law based upon its receipt of public money; and Denton v. Silver Stream Nursing and Rehab. Ctr., 739 A.2d 571, 576 (Pa. Super. 1999), where the court found that the “plain meaning of the language of the Law makes it clear that it was intended to apply to all agencies that receive public monies. ”
It is important to keep in mind that any time an employee is terminated by any non-governmental employer; it is quite possible that the private employer has had a relationship with a governmental entity such as serving as a contractor or receiving funds in some other matter, if so, the employee will have protection under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law.
Abramson Employment Law represents employees who have claims under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law. We devote our practice to helping employees fight unfair practices by employers including discrimination, sexual harassment, overtime and unpaid wage disputes, unemployment compensation, severance agreements and executive employment contracts. See our website at http://www.job-discrimination.com/