A university employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit against her employer, alleging that it had taken “adverse personnel action” against her after she reported a violation of law to law enforcement. The employee worked as an associate vice president for finance at the university, where she was responsible for finance operations, including procurement. While reviewing payment requests, she noticed suspicious financial transactions in some university departments. She reported her concerns to the university police chief. An investigation was conducted and the employee created a report that documented the suspicious transactions. The report was leaked to a television station, and the station began running stories regarding the contents of the report.

After the report was leaked, the university president told the employee that he was interested in hurting her as author of the report more than he was interested in correcting the corruption uncovered in the report. The employee lost the ability to approve and review procurement documents and was told to “stop looking at departments and their spending, you have caused enough trouble.” Shortly thereafter, she received a phone call from the vice chancellor of the university. He told her “she would have to go” and would be given a severance package if she chose to resign. He told her that he did not have authority to fire her but that she was “not a good fit.” The employee declined to resign and was not terminated.

The employee filed a whistleblower lawsuit regarding the threats made against her employment and the removal of her duties. The trial court dismissed the claim and she appealed. Before the court of appeals, one of the arguments made by the university was that it never took “adverse employment action” against her. In order to file a successful whistleblower lawsuit, an employee must be able to prove that he or she reported a violation of law to an appropriate law enforcement agency and that the employee suffered an adverse employment action as a result of the report. In this case, the only adverse actions taken against the employee were implied threats of termination; however, the employee was never fired. Unfulfilled threats of termination do not constitute an “adverse employment action” that would support a whistleblower lawsuit. But the employee did testify that she lost her procurement duties, which were the duties that had allowed her to discover the transactions she reported. The court of appeals held that this action would likely dissuade a similarly situated employee from making a whistleblower complaint and therefore she was permitted to have her lawsuit proceed.