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Fired Law Firm Employee Not Entitled to Whistleblower Protections

A former accounts receivable clerk was terminated from her position at Martin & Seibert after she reported the firm for suspicious overbilling. She noticed billing irregularities, including billing clients at attorney rates for work that was done by secretaries and paralegals. After voicing her concerns to other individuals at the firm, she was fired. According to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, at-will private employees who report suspected criminal conduct are not entitled to whistleblower protections.

Shortly after she reported her suspicions, she discovered that her job had been posted. Another attorney at the firm told her that he suspected that certain members of the firm blamed her for the billing irregularities. He urged her to speak to a former U.S. attorney, who he reached out to for advice on her behalf. After speaking to the former accounts receivable clerk, the U.S. attorney contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

To protect herself, she collected 227 attachments of billable hour data and emailed it to herself. The firm fired her for disclosing confidential information, which was a violation of law firm policy. According to West Virginia courts, there is an exception to the rule that allows at-will employees to be fired if the employee is terminated for refusing to participate in illegal activity. However, the exception does not apply to employees who report wrongdoing. The court ruled that she was not entitled to whistleblower protections because she was a public employee. The legislature would be responsible for making any extensions to the law, not the court. A dissenting judge argued that the majority should have made an exception for an employee who is terminated for reporting alleged overbilling for legal services.

According to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, the federal whistleblower claim was no longer viable after a February 2018 Supreme Court decision that required reporting to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This decision was in response to a certified question by a federal court regarding the former employee’s whistleblower lawsuit.

Philadelphia Employment Lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. Protect Employees Who Have Been Wrongfully Terminated

If you believe that you were wrongfully terminated from your job, it is in your best interest to contact the highly skilled Philadelphia employment lawyers at Sidkoff, Pincus & Green P.C. as soon as possible. We will work closely with you to understand the events leading up to your termination. Our experienced legal team will protect your rights and collect the documentation necessary to reach a successful settlement. To schedule an initial consultation, call us today at 215-574-0600 or contact us online. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania.