Pennsylvania Plaintiff Fails to Demonstrate that Whistleblowing Caused Her Termination
Although Pennsylvania lacks a common law action for wrongful termination of at-will employees, such employees may have a cause of action in several limited circumstances. For a wrongful termination claim to be viable, the at-will employee must show that the termination violates a clear mandate of public policy.
In the recent Pennsylvania case, Auman v. Family Planning Plus, Plaintiff, an at-will employee of Family Planning Plus accused her employer of terminating her for whistleblowing. Plaintiff made a claim under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law (“PWL”) – a public policy exception to the at will doctrine. To be successful under the PWL, Plaintiff needed to show both a protected report of wrongdoing and a connection between the report and termination showing cause.
Plaintiff made several allegations of misconduct on the part of her employer and filed complaints against Family Planning Plus. However, the Court ruled that Plaintiff’s accusations did not show concrete facts linking the whistleblowing to her termination. Plaintiff was not specifically directed to not file a report, and the Court found that there was no indication that her whistleblowing caused any adverse action toward Plaintiff. The Court stated that vague and inconclusive circumstantial evidence fails to satisfy this initial burden. If Plaintiff had shown that her whistleblowing negatively affected her career and resulted in her termination, the burden would have shifted to Family Planning Plus to show a separate and legitimate reason for the adverse action suffered by Plaintiff.