Wednesday, March 16, 2011

SB 188 Kills Jobs of Whistle Blowers by Marie Gockel


Don’t be deceived – S.B. 188 replaces all existing protection of whistle blowers under Missouri’s common law with only the elusive protections of S.B. 188.  This bill – like a wolf in sheep’s clothing – reduces those protected to employees reporting actual violations of law.  S.B. 188 eliminates existing protections under Missouri common law (universally protected in other states’ Whistle Blower statutes) for employees fired for reporting in good faith what they reasonably believe to be illegal conduct.
Whistle Blowers will be silenced if only proven, actual violations of law are protected.  Whistle Blowers who lose their jobs should not bear the burden of proving criminal convictions.
Don’t be deceived – S.B. 188 also leaves unprotected employees who use traditional, internal reporting channels such as owners, partners, members of boards of directors, supervisors, managers, hot lines or ethics committees, as these traditional reporting channels are not recognized in S.B. 188 as protected.
Employers who fire Whistle Blowers should not be handed a mere technical defense that the report of illegal conduct was to the “wrong” person!
Don’t be deceived – S.B. 188 is not an act to protect “small businesses” but has been promoted by Enterprise Leasing, a multi-million dollar business.  Enterprise has tried to change the law for the past six years since a jury found it guilty for retaliatory firing of an accountant who “snitched” when Enterprise told him to juggle their numbers on an accounting report being used for investors and potential lenders.  Basically, Enterprise attempted an ENRON, got caught by the accountant, then fired him for blowing the whistle and refusing to comply with its directives.   Not only did a jury find Enterprises guilty and awarded substantial damages, the Missouri Court of Appeals agreed in Dunn v. Enterprise Leasing Company, 170 S.W.3d 1 (Mo. App. 2005) and Enterprise has tried to change the law since then.
Missouri citizens who prevent companies like Enterprise from breaking the law deserve our continued protection and should not be thrown to the wolves.
Don’t be deceived – S.B. 188 imposes statutory caps on punitive damages borrowed from 20 year old federal law, on top of already existing caps for punitive damages.  Unlike other discrimination laws, Whistle Blowers must pay their own attorneys’ fees to pursue their cases.  With 20 year old damage caps, the fear of losing one’s job for speaking out, pro-employer loopholes and the reality of footing the attorneys’ fees and costs of a lawsuit, S.B. 188 erases any incentive for Whistle Blowers to speak out against wrongdoing.
S.B. 188 eliminates incentives to report wrongdoing for fear of being fired without protection and removes incentives to pursue meritorious lawsuits.  S.B. 188 favors “killing the messenger.” 
Don’t be deceived -- S.B. 188 throws to the wolves vigilant government employees who report taxpayer fraud and wasteful spending, vigilant employees who report employers who break our immigration, securities, banking and other laws, vigilant teachers who report fraudulent spending by their school districts, vigilant nurses who report patient abuse, neglect or Medicare/Medicaid Fraud and Abuse, and others deserving of protection.


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