Program Manager Sues for Wrongful Termination After Being Fired from DHEC
A program manager who worked for the Department of Health and Environmental Control was fired for alleged misconduct during the investigation of South Carolina’s Upstate tuberculosis outbreak. She is now suing DHEC for wrongful termination.
Malinda Martin says that, despite her investigation into troubling reports from Ninety-Six Elementary School, she was told not to test the children for tuberculosis. Then, she was fired for not testing the children soon enough.
Martin has been the tuberculosis program manager at DHEC since 2008, and manages an 11-county area.
“Although you were advised by Central Office TB (tuberculosis) staff not to follow up on TB testing on the group of students at the school, it was still your decision on whether or not further testing should be done. Despite the high rate, you decided to continue the process and not expand testing to the students,” according to a termination letter provided to the Herald-Journal by Martin’s attorney, John Reckenbeil.
Martin says, however, that her orders were contrary to her findings, and she was only trying to follow her employer’s instructions.
She says that she and a nurse colleague investigated the tuberculosis case according to DHEC guidelines. Reportedly, they were notified about a patient at Self Memorial Hospital who had tuberculosis. The patient worked at Ninety Six Primary School, so Martin and her colleague toured the school, and reportedly saw things that troubled them. They reported their findings to DHEC.
“We were very, very concerned about these schoolchildren,” Martin said.
Martin reports, however, that on April 8th, she and her colleague were told in a conference call that they were overreacting. DHEC elected not to test the children until two months later.
The lawsuit says, “Despite being warned of the gravity of the situation, DHEC failed to respond to (Martin’s) requests and made the decision not to test the school children until May 31.”
She claims that she was wrongfully terminated because her investigation into the tuberculosis outbreak was “derailed by her superiors, who insisted that focusing into the records and tuberculosis pre-employment screenings of the contacts from the initial investigations was prerequisite to expanding the testing.”
“Malinda Martin was begging the central office in Columbia to get information to the superintendent and the principal so that information could be released to the parents begging for them to release this information, and they wouldn’t do it, so therefore there was no ability for Malinda to go into the school and start testing. She didn’t have the authority to do it nor did she have the resources. The only people that had the resources were the people in Columbia that decided that this wasn’t a big deal,” Attorney John Reckenbeil said.
Employment Law and Wrongful Termination in South Carolina
Whether you are dealing with your employer’s failure to pay wages, a wrongful termination, or even a claim of discrimination, you may feel as if you do not have anywhere to turn.
South Carolina is an at-will employment state, meaning that you have the right to quit your job at any time for any reason or no reason at all; likewise, your employer can hire or fire you for any reason or no reason at all.
However, an employer cannot fire you for any reason that:
• is illegal or protected under State or Federal law,
• violates the express terms of an implied or express contractual agreement, or
• violates public policy.
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Issues of Wrongful Termination
The Employment Lawyers at the Strom Law Firm understand that your job is your livelihood and know what is at stake. If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated, based on your agreement with your employer or legal issues surrounding your job, you may have a case. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation. 803.252.4800