The Utah Supreme Court held that an in-house attorney who alleged he was fired for reporting illegal activity to his superiors could not sustain his wrongful discharge lawsuit by showing his actions were required by state ethics rules. Pang v. Int’l Document Servs., 2015 UT 63 (Utah 2015) (No. 20120983). The in-house attorney became concerned that his employer was violating usury laws in numerous states and repeatedly warned the company’s owners that the actions rendered their out-of-state practice illegal. The attorney was fired. In his complaint, he alleged he was fired for complying with Utah Rule of Professional Conduct 1.13, which requires in-house counsel who are aware of illegal activity to refer the matter to higher authority in the organization. The Utah Supreme Court held that Rule 1.13 does not constitute a clear and substantial public policy that prevents the termination of an at-will employee; further, even if it did constitute a public policy, an employer’s countervailing interest in regulating its workplace environment might nevertheless outweigh the policy at issue.
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Professional Conduct Rules Do Not Justify Wrongful Discharge Of Whistleblower
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