SCOTUS won't decide if whistleblower law protects ex-employees

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REUTERS/Daniel Munoz

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  • Appeals courts split over scope of whistleblower protections
  • 6th Circuit revived neurologist's claim he was blacklisted after firing
  • Hospital said ruling would be devastating for employers

(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it would not resolve a split among federal appeals courts over whether federal law protects whistleblowers who face retaliation after they leave their jobs.

The court declined to review a decision from the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reviving a neurologist's claim that a Michigan hospital blacklisted him and destroyed his career after he was fired for filing a whistleblower complaint.

The 6th Circuit's March 2021 decision created a split with the 10th Circuit, which has held that the federal False Claims Act does not shield former employees from retaliation.

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Jason Marcus of Bracker & Marcus, who represents plaintiff David Felten, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither did Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells, who represents William Beaumont Hospital.

Felten sued William Beaumont in 2010 for allegedly paying kickbacks to doctors for referrals. He later amended the lawsuit to claim that the hospital retaliated against him by preventing him from getting another job after he was terminated, though he did not challenge the legality of his firing.

A Detroit federal judge dismissed the case, but the 6th Circuit in its 2-1 ruling last year found that the term "employee" in the FCA had "no temporal qualifier," and that the law should be applied as broadly as possible.

William Beaumont in a September petition told the Supreme Court that allowing the decision to stand would have devastating consequences for employers, particularly in the healthcare industry, by potentially allowing individuals to bring FCA claims decades after their employment has ended.

The case is William Beaumont Hospital v. United States ex rel. Felten, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 21-443.

For Felten: Jason Marcus of Bracker & Marcus

For the hospital: Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells

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6th Circuit finds whistleblower law shields ex-employees from retaliation

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Dan Wiessner (@danwiessner) reports on labor and employment and immigration law, including litigation and policy making. He can be reached at