One of the former assistant coaches at Penn State who was widely recognized as the main whistleblower in the child abuse case is now pursuing a defamation claim and a whistleblower claim against the school. He was put on administrative leave after the coach accused of child abuse was arrested, and he says that the actions of the university after that point defamed his character and interfered with his ability to continue making a living as a football coach.
The school recently asked that the case be put on hold pending a hearing on the issue by a local judge.
The assistant coach who is now suing the school says that he was put on leave as a direct result of his cooperation with authorities during the investigation, which led to three arrests and public outcry against the school. In addition, the stress, humiliation, and anxiety brought on by the criminal investigation caused him serious emotional harm.
He is asking to be reinstated in his job as an assistant coach and is requesting back pay and compensation for attorney’s fees.
Employees who report criminal activity deserve protection under whistleblower laws. Since this case is so complex, it is difficult to determine how much protection the assistant coach is entitled to and whether the school itself is responsible for the defamation and harm to his reputation, other whether that harm was caused by external factors.
In any situation, employees should not be removed from their jobs simply because they reported illegal conduct and cooperated with law enforcement officers. Minnesota employees should remember their right to protection from retaliation in the event that they are caught in the midst of a public scandal or criminal investigation.
Source: Associated Press, “Penn State Request to delay McQueary defamation, whistleblower suit to be topic of hearing,” Nov. 16, 2012.