With more employees than ever becoming aware of the federal protections available for whistleblowers, there has been a corresponding rise in unhappy workers looking to sue their former employers. However, in at-will employment states like Pennsylvania, proceeding with these claims is not always a viable prospect.
Recent trends, however, appear to provide greater relief to employees. There has been growing case law establishing that plaintiffs in whistleblower retaliation cases can recover for noneconomic damages, such as emotional distress and humiliation, in addition to their standard compensatory damages. These trends have made whistleblower claims more attractive to attorneys in at-will employment states who might have previously been hesitant to take them on.
Should whistleblowers be able to recover noneconomic damages?
The ability of plaintiffs to recover noneconomic damages in whistleblower lawsuits has been the subject of heated debate in Pennsylvania state courts, and many experts predict the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will soon rule in the matter. However, decisions in several recent cases have trended toward loosening historical restrictions for whistleblowers.
For example, a plaintiff recently received $3.2 million — including $1.6 million in noneconomic damages — in a lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission. The plaintiff’s attorney successfully argued that whistleblower cases must include compensation for the reputational damage and mental anguish the victim suffered. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to review the case soon.
Currently, state law outlines that awards in such cases must ensure plaintiffs are “in no worse a position for having exposed the wrongdoing,” but there is nothing in the law that explicitly covers the issue of noneconomic damages.
For more information on how this case could affect other whistleblower regulations across the country, speak with an experienced Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.