The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court erred when it dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former state employee who alleged she was fired because she complained about the state paying claims submitted to it without following the mandated procedure.
A 25 year employee of Indiana’s Department of Environmental Management pointed out to her supervisors that claims for government money were not properly documented, or were for items that should not be paid, she was disciplined and eventually terminated.
The appellate court reversed the trial court, ruling that the fired employee alleged one of the limited circumstances when an employee cannot be fired. Namely, being fired for objecting to or otherwise opposing a false claim for government payment. This is an exception to the “Employment At Will Doctrine,” which usually allows an employee to be fired (or quit) for any reason.
Whether you are a government employee, or an employee of a private enterprise that does business with the state, you cannot be fired for pointing out that tax dollars are being misused. If you think this has happened to you, please contact me so we can arrange a meeting.
One ground that the state attempted to get out on was sovereign immunity. That is, that IDEM (this equals the state here) could not be sued, no matter what it did. The appellate court rejected this argument rather summarily, holding that the situations where sovereign immunity applied were now explicitly stated, and this was not stated in this case.
The specific statute forbidding firing an employee for objecting to a false claim for government money is Indiana Code 5-11-5.5-8.
The case is Esserman v. IDEM, dated 29 December 2016.