Do I have any protection or recourse under whistleblower laws?

I was employed at a sleep lab which is an IDTF. We were accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). Several months after receiving accreditation I realized that my facility was not in compliance with all of the accreditation standards set forth by AASM. I addressed these issues with the lab manager on three separate occasions, and each time my concerns were blown off. So I filed a complaint with AASM. A month after my manager received the complaint, I was terminated for a fabricated allegation of insubordination. This is a separate issue. My question is, do I qualify as a whistleblower? Everything I've read about whistleblower protection seems to only apply when its reported to a government agency laws are broken Could this be considered a violation of public policy?

Las Vegas, NV -

Attorney Answers (2)

V. Jonas Urba

V. Jonas Urba

Employment / Labor Attorney - Tarrytown, NY
Answered

Could you have filed your complaint with a governmental or quasi-governmental agency (i.e. state Board of Medicine, etc....)? Which one and why did you choose not to do so?

Assuming you had a good faith basis for filing your complaint with the private accrediting body, what action did/will the AASM take regarding your complaint? Did they respond in writing? Are you planning on presenting this defense in support of receiving unemployment benefits (assuming your employer denies your claim)? Have you consulted with an employment lawyer to help with all of these issues? If not, why not?

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Administrative Law Lawyer - Pasadena, CA
Answered

Whistleblower laws -- federal and in all states -- are far more narrow, restrictive, and technical than most employees would ever imagine. No employee should ever take action in the course of their employment in the belief that they are protected as a whistle-blower without first obtaining legal advice on that issue and the specific facts of the situation.

It is very unlikely that your state's w-b laws can be argued to apply to an issue of private accreditation by an industry or trade organization. But there is no downside, even at this point of the matter, to a consultation with legal counsel. A skilled attorney with extensive specific experience with your state's w-b laws might possibly tease out or unearth some detail that could be advanced as an arguable basis for a w-b claim, at least sufficient to affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits or perhaps a modest severance -- or even an agreement for neutral job references in the future.

But the more persuasive and likely view of this matter is that your employer was stunned by your unilateral act of disloyalty and willingness to cause damage to your employer's business. That knowledge caused the employer to start paying heightened attention to your performance. No at will employee subjected to heightened scrutiny can survive for long -- usually it is a matter of weeks, at best. Human beings just aren't that perfect in their performances, and a clean termination under at will employment principles requires virtually no proof or justification.

BTW, for reference in your future employment: what you did was not only not likely protected by w-b laws, the vast majority of all employers in the known world would have done exactly what yours did. Most likely you need to learn from this experience and move on.

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