Whistleblower laws protect the annoying, and rightly so

Laura Carlin Mattiacci, the lawyer who represented Marla Pietrowski in a $1.7 million whistleblower case, describes her client as a stickler for the rules.

"If you met her, she's a rule follower," Mattiacci said.

It's an interesting question: Where is the line between an employee who is the courageous upholder of company ethics, and the one who is a annoyingly blind follower of every rule and regulation beyond any common sense?

In this case, for example, Pietrowski claims in her lawsuit that she was fired for complaining that her immediate supervisor brought his primary-school-aged daughter into work. It was inappropriate, she said. Inappropriate? Really? Lots of people bring their kids into the office, especially in a childcare emergency. It happens.

But this office, in Vineland, was a community center run by the Kintock Group, a King of Prussia nonprofit that operates re-entry services for prison parolees. This office's clients included convicted sex offenders. Before you gasp, the clients had left for the day before the daughter visited the office. But, the office was still open and any one could drop in at any time. Where does that situation fall?

The Philadelphia jury that awarded Pietrowski, 56, of Bridgeton, $1.7 million on March 22, obviously had no problem drawing the line. There were other issues, which you can read in my Inquirer story.  

Pietrowski's lawyer makes an interesting point -- not necessarily in relationship to this case, but to all whistleblower cases.

"I think it is important that the law protects the people who are pains in the butt, because the person has the courage to come forward," said Mattiacci, a lawyer with Console Law Offices LLC in Philadelphia.  

"They don’t want to brush things under the rug," she said.

"That’s what we should want to happen as a society," she said. "Look at what happened in the economy. That’s a result of people who saw things and were too afraid to come forward to say anything because that they thought they would be fired.

"We want persons to have courage to come forward."