The curious case of a high-speed ambulance-chasing whistleblower

'First Birthday cake and cupcakes' photo (c) 2011, kristin_a (Meringue Bake Shop) - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/But before I get to that, did you know that The Employer Handbook turns one today? It’s true. Help me blow out the candle — hey, kid! Save some for the rest of us.

Whatevs.

Just click through because I’ve got a crazazy one for you. It’s a true story about a police officer – slash – ambulance driver who started a high-speed ambulance chase to serve a restraining order on a co-worker’s ex-boyfriend and then…

Yeah, just hit the jump…

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In some states, like New Jersey, employers are forbidden from firing or otherwise disciplining employees who disclose to a supervisor or public body, conduct by the employer that the employee reasonably believes violates a law, regulation, or public policy. The employee is deemed a whistleblower. And, in the Garden State, the Conscientious Employee Protection Act (CEPA) makes it illegal to retaliate against whistleblowers.

Here are the ambulance-chase facts. Let’s see if we can determine whether we have a CEPA violation:

This is plaintiffs’ version of the pertinent events. Bryant was an emergency medical technician (EMT) supervisor at the Jersey City Medical Center (JCMC). He also held a second job as a Jersey City police officer. On the evening of June 12, 2009, while Bryant was working in the dispatch center at JCMC, Guzman, an EMT who was one of his subordinates, told him that an EMT from another hospital was on his way to the JCMC to deliver a patient to the emergency room (ER) where Guzman was working. She also told Bryant that this EMT was her former boyfriend, against whom she had obtained an as-yet-unserved domestic violence restraining order, and she was afraid of him. She gave Bryant a copy of the restraining order.

For reasons not addressed in their complaints, neither Bryant nor Guzman alerted hospital security. Instead, Bryant left his assigned post at the dispatch center in order to protect Guzman when the ex-boyfriend brought his patient into the ER. When the ex-boyfriend arrived, Bryant interceded to keep him away from Guzman, and tried unsuccessfully to hand him a copy of the restraining order. After the ex-boyfriend deposited his patient at the ER and departed in his work vehicle, Bryant commandeered one of JCMC’s ambulances and followed the ex-boyfriend on a high-speed chase through the streets of Jersey City, in a further attempt to serve him with the restraining order.

As a result of this incident, Bryant was fired for professional misconduct, and Guzman was discharged for “interfering with an investigation by providing false information, misleading information and/or omitting information.”

Bryant argued that his firing for opposing or acting to prevent domestic violence at the workplace violated CEPA. The court, in this opinion, disagreed. It noted that the plaintiff admitted in his complaint that he had been fired for a legitimate business reason (i.e., not for whistleblowing); namely, using a company ambulance to race through the streets of Jersey City:

[H]is own pleadings, as supplemented by his certification, established that he was fired for commandeering the employer’s ambulance and chasing Guzman’s ex-boyfriend through the streets of Jersey City. No public policy protected him from termination as a result of that admitted misconduct.

Moreover, his CEPA complaint failed to identify any illegal activity or policy of his employer, and failed to state facts that, if true, would establish that he “blew the whistle” by opposing or complaining about any such activity or policy.

Yeah, it happens.

The French Connection was before my time. But, I’ll leave you with a video of one of the base car-chase scenes from the past ten years — albeit, hardly the best movie in the Matrix Trilogy:

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