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University Worker's Whistleblower Case Tossed

Colleen Bradley, director of budget and financial planning at a Pennsylvania university, had a problem with the budgets.

They were "false budgets" designed to increase taxpayer-funded appropriations, she alleged in Bradley v. West Chester University of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. When she complained about them, Bradley said, she was fired.

A trial court dismissed her case, and an appeals court affirmed. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said it was about government immunity and the limits of free speech.

'But-For' Causation Required for FCA Retaliation Cases

After climbing up the corporate ladder, Marie DiFiore had a great fall.

She was newly promoted to director of marketing at a drug company, but started to have problems with co-workers and certain "off-label" products. When the company put her on probation, she quit.

DiFiore sued for wrongful discharge and retaliation under the False Claims Act, but a trial court ruled against her. On appeal in DiFiore v. CSL Behring, the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals said the judge got it right.

Hospital Worker Can't Refuse Flu Vaccine, Court Rules

It's hard to understand how a hospital worker would not believe in vaccinations.

But to each his own, and apparently it wasn't a problem for Paul Fallon when he went to work for Mercy Catholic Medical Center. When Fallon refused to be vaccinated for the flu, however, that was another issue.

The hospital fired him, he sued, and a trial judge dismissed. That would have been the end of the story, but then he appealed to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

Third Circuit Sees Sea Change in Maritime Law

The appeals court judges could see it coming, like a wave building on the horizon.

For decades, other circuit courts had ruled that sailors were bound by collective bargaining agreements over pay rates. The U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals held to an older view of maritime law.

"Today we stop swimming against the tide," the judges said in Joyce v. Maersk Line, Ltd. It was significant because the court overruled its own precedent, but it also broadsided the plaintiff who had relied on the 27-year-old decision.

Two sheriff's deputies out of Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania filed an appeal after winning a judgment against their employer for unpaid overtime in the Souryavong v. Lackawanna County case. The government employer contended that the failure to pay overtime was an administrative error, a payroll glitch and nothing more.

While the lower district court did award the three plaintiffs their unpaid wages, and even doubled the damages and awarded attorney's fees, the plaintiffs, and their attorney, filed an appeal seeking more money. Sadly for the plaintiffs and their attorney, the appellate court did not disturb the ruling of the lower court.

3rd Circuit Revives FMLA Case Against Boscov's

In a way, the farmer's market was mixing apples and oranges.

Craig Zuber, who worked at the Fairgrounds Farmer's Market in Reading, Pennsylvania, signed a settlement agreement after he was injured on the job. He then sued the company for Family Medical Leave Act violations and other claims.

Boscov's, the employer, said he waived his right to sue when he settled the injury case. A federal appeals court said, that's different.

Nuclear Security Guard's Disability Suit Fails

We do not want mentally disturbed people in charge of nuclear power -- and we're not even talking about certain world leaders.

In the case of McNelis v. Pennsylvania Power & Light Company, the court was talking about a security guard at a nuclear power plant. He sued for disability discrimination, but the court concluded he was not mentally fit for the job.

It is a sad story for the individual in the case, but emphasizes the explosive potential for everybody from paranoia around nuclear power.

Court: Secular Anti-Abortion Organization Must Offer Contraception Coverage

Few judges will offer an opinion about religious issues with abortion or contraception before being appointed to the federal bench, but it is another matter after confirmation.

In Real Alternatives, Inc. v. Secretary Department of Health and Human Services, Judge Kent A. Jordan had no problem expressing his opinion. In the 115-page decision, he stretched his dissent over 55 pages to say that employees should not be compelled to pay for insurance coverage that offends their religious beliefs.

"What my colleagues fail to appreciate is that coercing financial support for something deeply objectionable is a real and substantial burden, and a forced signature alone can be problematic," he said. "In matters of conscience, the signing of one's name is more than a scrawl on paper."

The Third Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of a whistleblower case against a make-up company because the claims were more than just "skin deep."

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this case is the court's acceptance that a lawyer's whistleblower claim can be premised upon an obligation under the code of professional responsibility. The lower court dismissed the case partly based on the fact that the rules of professional responsibility were not laws that the makeup company had to abide by, and therefore did not fit the New Jersey statute at issue. The Third Circuit disagreed and specifically ruled that the rules of professional conduct could be used as the basis of a whistleblower claim premised on NJ's Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA).

The Third Circuit dealt the final blow to a long-running whistleblower suit last Tuesday. Jeffrey Wiest, a former accounts payable manager for Tyco Electronics, alleged that he had been illegally terminated in retaliation for raising concerns over expenditures on lavish parties featuring mermaid greeters, pirate performers and fire dancers. He sued, claiming that his firing months later violated the anti-retaliation provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

The Third Circuit wasn't convinced, however, finding that Wiest had failed to show that his termination was connected to his mermaid expenditures complaints, rather than a later, independent sexual harassment investigation.