Federal Court Dismisses Worker’s Retaliatory Discharge Lawsuit, Which Claimed He Was Fired for Filing Whistleblower Case

February 15, 2019

A Dallas retaliatory discharge claim can arise under many different sets of circumstances. In some of these cases, the employee asserts that he or she was retaliated against for complaining about a coworker’s sexual harassment or about being passed over for a promotion due to race, age, or gender.

A retaliatory discharge case can also be the result of an employee’s termination following a whistleblower lawsuit or similar claim.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was a  man who alleged that the defendant, a limited liability company that subcontracted with another business that had agreed to administer educational/vocational services pursuant to the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, had retaliated against him for engaging in an activity that was protected under the False Claims Act.

According to the plaintiff’s complaint, he witnessed several practices by the defendant during his employment that he believed violated the guidelines and regulations set forth by the government regarding how the Workforce Investment Act was to be administered. The plaintiff also alleged that he had witnessed policies implemented by the defendant’s employees that were contrary to the program. After the plaintiff and three others filed a qui tam action against the defendant and another entity, the plaintiff averred that was excluded from management meetings, restricted from accessing certain information, and, ultimately, terminated from his employment.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.

Decision of the Court

The United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s case with prejudice. In order to defeat a motion to dismiss filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a plaintiff has the duty of pleading enough facts to state a claim for relief that is “plausible on its face.” Insomuch as the court has to accept well-pleaded facts as true and draw reasonable inferences based thereon, the ultimate question was whether the plaintiff’s complaint, when viewed in the light most favorable to him, stated a valid legal claim against the defendant.

The purpose of the False Claims Act is combat fraud against the government; thus, the Act contains a whistleblower provision to protect employees who uncover and report an employer’s fraudulent submissions to the government. According to the court, a retaliation claim filed under the Act must have three elements in order to be viable: the plaintiff engaged in a protected activity, the defendant knew of this activity, and the defendant discriminated against the plaintiff due to the activity. Because the plaintiff had failed to establish a basis for imputing knowledge of his participation in a protected activity to the defendant, the court found that his retaliation claim against the defendant failed.

In so holding, the court noted that the litigation had been going on for quite some time and that the plaintiff had several opportunities to amend his complaint to add additional allegations in support of his retaliation claim. Not only had the defendant filed several motions to dismiss previously, a judge’s ruling entered earlier should have alerted the plaintiff to the “problems with his pleadings,” according to the court.

Experienced Dallas Employment Lawyers

At the Dallas-based law firm of Key Harrington Barnes, our team of knowledgeable employment litigation, employee relations, and business law attorneys are here to defend area businesses who find themselves accused of wrongdoing by a current or former employee. To schedule an appointment to discuss your case with a member of our team, call us at 214-615-7925, and we will be happy to set up a time for you to come into our offices.

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