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DC Federal Court Holds Employee Reporting Wrongdoing Can Proceed with Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

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On September 12, 2011, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that Jonathon Myers can proceed with his wrongful termination lawsuit against his former employer, Alutiiq International Solutions, LLC, and his former supervisors.  Myers reported to several supervisors an inappropriate romantic relationship between another supervisor, George Bailey, and an employee, Lori Strictland, where Bailey had given Strictland unearned raises and promotions and had hired relatives and friends of the employee to positions for which they were not qualified.  Since Bailey and Strictland were working on a government contract, such conflicts of interest are a violation of federal regulations.

The matter was referred to the Office of Inspector General (OIG), resulting in Bailey’s removal from the contract and Strictland’s termination.  A day later, Alutiiq also terminated Myers.  In his complaint, Myers alleges he was unlawfully punished because his reporting of the conflict of interest may have jeopardized the government contract.

In Adams v. George W. Cochran & Co., 597 A.2d 28, the D.C. Court of Appeals held that an at-will employee stated a cause of action for wrongful discharge where the employee would have been forced to violate the law in order to avoid being terminated.  The D.C. Court of Appeals then expanded this public policy exception in Carl v. Children’s Hospital, 702 A.2d 159 (D.C. 1997). The exception may exist where the employee acted in furtherance of a public policy “solidly based on a statute or regulation that reflects the particular public policy to be applied, or (if appropriate) on a constitutional provision concretely applicable to the defendant’s conduct.”

The court held that the facts alleged by Myers establish a prima facie claim of wrongful termination, thus allowing the lawsuit to proceed.  The court also held that Myers could proceed on his claim that his supervisors were estopped from terminating him after they had promised not to retaliate against him if he cooperated with the OIG’s investigation.  The case is Myers v. Alutiiq Int’l Solutions, LLC.


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