Whistle-Blower Suit Against Manufacturer Revived by 8th Cir.

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By Phyllis Diamond

Air-compressor maker MAT Holdings Inc. must face Minnesota law claims it fired a technician for telling regulators he was pressured to doctor performance data, the Eighth Circuit said June 15, reversing ( Sellner v. MAT Holdings Inc. , 2017 BL 203286, 8th Cir., No. 15-2937, 6/15/17 ).

Manager Alan Stark’s comment a day earlier that lab-quality technician Douglas Sellner would “be on the street” if he didn’t “get creative” with his documentation provided the required link between Sellner’s protected conduct and his termination, the appeals court said.

The district court said Stark made his comment too long before Sellner was fired 27 days later, but the appeals court didn’t agree. There is no specific time limit on the viability of direct evidence, Judge Duane Benton said.

He also said the causal link isn’t destroyed by Stark’s subsequent support of employment decisions beneficial to Sellner. Stark’s support of Sellner’s employment could suggest that MAT’s claim Sellner was fired for poor conduct had no basis in fact, the court said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phyllis Diamond in Washington at pdiamond@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bna.com

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