Filed: May 13, 2010.
Opinion by Judge Joseph F. Murphy, Jr.
Held: A claim under the Health Care Worker Whistleblower Protection Act is cognizable even if the plaintiff did not report an alleged violation to an external board and even if the employees committing such violation did not have authority to set company policy.
Facts: The plaintiff worked for Montgomery Hospice, Inc. (“Montgomery”), a health care institution. She provided reports to supervisors about conduct at Montgomery that threatened the health of patients. She did not disclose her concerns outside of Montgomery. During the plaintiff’s annual evaluation, she received notice that her employment would be terminated.
The plaintiff filed an action against Montgomery for, among other things, violation of the Maryland Health Care Worker Whistleblower Protection Act, Md. Code Ann., Health Occ. §§ 1-501 et seq. (the “Act”). The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Montgomery, and the plaintiff appealed.
Analysis: The Court of Appeals addressed two issues of statutory interpretation. The first issue was whether a claim under the Act is cognizable if the plaintiff did not provide a report to an external board. Section 1-502 of the Act protects an employee that “discloses or threatens to disclose to a supervisor or board an activity, policy, or practice of the employer that is in violation of a law, rule, or regulation.” Holding that disclosure to an external board is not a necessary condition for a claim, the court noted that the Act protects even those who merely threaten to disclose. It also discussed a number of cases from other jurisdictions that emphasized the strong public policy reasons for protecting employees that lodge internal complaints.
The second issue was whether a claim under the Act is cognizable if employees committing the asserted bad conduct do not have authority to set company policy. The court addressed the issue briefly, but we can infer that when an employer does not remedy certain violations of employees, the violations become, in effect, the act of the employer.
The full opinion is available in PDF.