Three former Forsyth County Board of Election employees who alleged they were treated unfairly for blowing the whistle on their supervisor were denied the right to sue under the North Carolina Whistleblowers Protection Act (WPA).
The North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of claims brought by Pamela Johnson, Deena Head and Terry Cox under the WPA. Johnson had reported BOE Director Robert Coffman for misusing a county credit card and Johnson and Cox had alleged he was violating election laws. Head accused the Coffman of sexual harassment.
The three claimed they should be protected under the WPA, but the appellate court found that the act only shields those named in Chapter 126 of the general statutes, namely state employees. Other government employees protected under the act are employees of county health departments, employees of social service departments and those of local emergency management agencies.
Because the statute does not name BOE employees, the plaintiffs’ suit was dismissed. Judge Sanford L. Steelman affirmed the dismissal, arguing that the language of Chapter 126 is “clear and unambiguous” in stating that county board of election employees are not protected as whistleblowers.