On August 26, a former employee of steel processor SPS Companies Inc. (SPS) sued the company for whistleblower retaliation in Missouri federal court. The employee, Micah Morrison, claims he was fired for blowing the whistle on a scheme in which the company stole confidential worker health data in an effort to limit its liability for employee exposure to COVID-19.
Morrison claims that, while serving on SPS’s COVID-19 task force, he received an email revealing that the company had secretly obtained confidential health data of about 650 employees and their families. Morrison alleges that SPS’s goal was to use this data to mitigate liability by targeting individuals deemed high-risk to the virus, specifically those with pre-existing conditions, and urging them to stay home and use their personal and vacation leave. Morrison claims he was fired shortly after reporting this conduct, which he believes violates federal health, benefits, and disability law, to his superiors. His lawsuit accuses SPS, SPS subsidiary Steel Ventures LLC, and certain executives of violating the Missouri Whistleblower Protection Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other laws.
The Missouri Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in June 2017. The Act provides anti-retaliation protections to employees who “report to his or her employer serious misconduct of the employer that violates a clear mandate of public policy as articulated in a constitutional provision, statute, or regulation promulgated under statute.” Successful claimants may be awarded back pay and attorney fees. Additionally, this recovery may be doubled if the employer’s conduct is deemed outrageous due to “evil motive or reckless indifference to the rights of others.”