Court Takes Narrow Approach to Minnesota Whistleblower Law

Naomi Chial worked as a retail sales manager for Sprint when she complained to her boss that a fellow sales manager's method of reporting sales amounted to "commissions fraud." One month later, a supervisor warned Chial that her performance was slipping. Eight months and three written warnings later, the company fired her.

The final blow came June 24 from the 8th Circuit, which upheld the dismissal of Chial's retaliatory discharge suit against Sprint/United Management Co. in a judgment that strictly interprets whistleblower protections in Minnesota.

In front of the 8th Circuit, Chial's lawyer Jill Clark, a solo practitioner, argued the whistleblower law would be "gutted" if a "stellar employee" could be terminated for exposing illegal practices in an era of corporate malfeasance. "Ms. Chial did not benefit from doing this--she right away started to feel the crunch and she eventually paid with her job," Clark argued.

That struck a chord with at least one of the judges, who remarked during the hearing, "One would think that a company like Sprint would reward an employee like that, rather than fire her. ... Maybe we should take a more liberal view towards plaintiffs' complaints of this nature."

Cristin Schmitz

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