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Employees Required to File Misconduct Reports May Still Be Protected by Whistleblower Statute

In the case of Desmond v. Mahoning Cty. Pros. Office, 7th Dist. Mahoning No. 2018 MA 0109, 2019-Ohio-4089, an Ohio appellate court held that whistleblower protection may apply to employees who are directed by supervisors to make reports of alleged misconduct and that reports of violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct are protected conduct receiving whistleblower protection.

In this case, an assistant prosecutor was terminated from a county prosecutor’s office following the submission of a report alleging misconduct by a fellow assistant prosecutor.  The assistant prosecutor brought a legal claim alleging that the termination was in retaliation for filing a whistleblower claim.  The legal claim was initially filed with the State Personnel Board of Review (“SPBR”). SPBR ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim under R.C. 124.341 because the assistant prosecutor’s report did not comply with a “good faith” filing standard and that reporting violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct is not a protected activity. The assistant prosecutor appealed his decision to a trial court, and the trial court affirmed the decision of SPBR.

The Ohio appellate court held that that R.C. 124.341 contains no express “good faith requirement” and that an employee would still be protected for making a report even if they were directed to by a supervisor. The Ohio appellate court further held that reporting violations of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct is protected activity under R.C. 124.341. Thus, the Ohio appellate court reversed and remanded the judgment of the trial court.

To read this case, click here.

Authors: Matthew John Markling and the McGown & Markling Team.

Note: This blog entry does not constitute – nor does it contain – legal advice. Legal jurisprudence is always changing like the Midwestern weather. As a result, this single blog entry cannot substitute for consultation with a McGown & Markling attorney. If legal advice is needed with respect to a specific factual situation, please feel free to contact a McGown & Markling attorney.

 

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