A New Jersey arbitrator ruled that a former Amgen sales rep can proceed with a wrongful termination claim against the biotech, a decision that may have implications for other whistleblowers who work in the state and seek to report objectionable practices to their employers but not government agencies.
Elena Ferrante, 50, marketed the Enbrel treatment for rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis in New Jersey between 2002 and 2005, but claims she was fired in retaliation for not complying with what she calls an unethical and illegal marketing strategy after reporting the practices to her supervisors (back story).
Amgen contended Ferrante was required to not only report allegedly off-label marketing directives to her company, but also to an outside agency. The ruling by the arbitrator, retired US District Court Judge John Lifland, suggests other aspiring whistleblowers in the state, where the issue is before the New Jersey Supreme Court, may have a lower - and less daunting - threshhold to meet (here is the ruling).
"The whole issue, which is in flux in the state, is whether you need to report illegal or unethical conduct on the part of your employer to an outside agency," says Ferrante's lawyer, Lydia Cotz. "This ruling allows an employee to resist unethical and illegal behavior within a corporation, and not have to go to an external agency to report the wrongdoing."
An Amgen spokeswoman writes us this: "The arbitrator has ruled on a number of claims in the Ferrante case, several of which have been dismissed. We continue to believe the remaining claims are completely without merit and look forward to a speedy and just conclusion to the arbitration."
pic thx to katerha on flickr