All that is required to bring a cause of action for retaliatory discharge is that the employer discharge the employee in retaliation for the employee's activities, and that the discharge be in contravention of a clearly mandated public policy.
Roger Balla, in-house counsel, represented to his employer, Gambro, Inc. (“Gambro”), that he would do whatever was necessary to stop the sale of certain misbranded and/or adulterated dialyzers. Gambro fired Balla, and Balla filed an action for retaliatory discharge.
Should Balla be allowed the remedy of an action for retaliatory discharge?
The Court held that Balla did not have a cause of action for retaliatory discharge. The Court reasoned that the whistleblower exception to the at-will employment doctrine did not apply to attorneys in the same manner as it did to other employees. The Court reasoned that the retaliatory discharge exception to the at-will employment doctrine was intended to encourage employees to come forward and report acts that contravened public policy. The Court found that attorneys had an ethical obligation pursuant to Model Rules of Prof'l Conduct R. 1.6(b) to reveal information necessary to prevent a client from committing a crime. The Court also found that extending the tort of retaliatory discharge might have a chilling effect on the communications between Gambro and Balla.