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Employers Guilty Until Proven Innocent? Third Circuit Lowers the Bar for Employees Claiming Retaliation for Certain Protected Whistleblower Activities

Posted in Whistleblower

with Michael Slocum

In a decision that may have far-ranging impact for employers accused of retaliating against whistleblower-employees, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that an employee whose evidence was “entirely circumstantial,” and who did not provide “any evidence” of his employer’s alleged retaliatory motive, nonetheless presented enough evidence to survive summary judgment. Araujo v. NJ Transit Rail Operations, Inc., No. 12-2148 (3rd Cir. February 19, 2013). While the Araujo decision itself comes specifically from the federal whistleblower laws applicable to the railroad industry, the Third Circuit’s analysis of the applicable legal burdens may well apply to employers in such diverse industries as commercial trucking, airlines, maritime, automobile manufacture, and consumer products generally, as well as any employer covered by Sarbanes-Oxley.

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