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Man not fired for being 'whistle-blower'

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of a plaintiff's former company, finding no evidence the company fired him in retaliation for being a whistle-blower.

In Donald A. Bregin v. Liquidebt Systems Inc. and SIRVA Inc., No. 08-1390, Donald Bregin filed a suit against Liquidebt (LSI) and SIRVA, claiming LSI fired him in retaliation for his refusal to participate in illegal accounting practices. LSI provided collection services for SIRVA, where Bregin originally worked until LSI hired him as vice president of operations. LSI had a contract with SIRVA to meet certain collection goals or face a financial penalty.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found undisputed facts that Bregin's suit must fail. Indiana is an employment-at-will state, and there are only rare occasions in which an employer can't terminate any employee for any reason, such as not firing someone who doesn't want to participate in criminal conduct, as in McClanahan v. Remington Freight Lines, Inc, 517 N.E.2d 390 (Ind. 1988).

Bregin claimed he couldn't lawfully stay silent about SIRVA's allegedly illegal accounting practices, but he never offered any specifics or identified what illegal act he was asked to commit or condone, wrote Judge Terence Evans.

Bregin also wanted the appellate court to find a new exception under Indiana's employment-at-will doctrine - that as a whistle-blower under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, he's afforded certain protections against wrongful discharge under state law. But again, Bregin failed to specify any law that has been violated and is vague in describing the irregularities in SIRVA's accounting practices, wrote Judge Evans.

Bregin also failed on his claim that SIRVA tortiously interfered with his employment at LSI. LSI's president testified that he was the only one who made the decision to fire Bregin after LSI's performance on the SIRVA account didn't reach its goal. In addition, SIRVA's complaint about LSI's performance under Bregin's leadership is justified based on LSI's performance and unprofessional conduct, wrote Judge Evans.

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