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Whistleblower Act suits must relate to, well, whistle-blowing

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A recently discharged state employee has lost a case in which he claimed every North Carolina state agency could be sued for work-related claims because of the passage of the North Carolina Whistleblower Act.

Recent case: North Carolina A&T State University fired Michael Phillips. He sued, alleging that the university had slandered him and wrongfully fired him.

Because state entities have sovereign immunity from most tort claims, the university wanted the case dismissed. Phillips argued that because the North Carolina Whistleblower Act says the state waives its sovereign immunity, the door is open to all suits.

The court rejected his argument, ruling that it applied only to whistle-blowing. Although Phillips alleged he had been wrongly fired, the discharge wasn’t related to any whistle-blowing activity. (Phillips v. North Carolina A&T State University, No. 1:09-CV-227, MD NC, 2009)

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