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Can I be fired for divulging my employer’s sensitive information if I believe that it is an issue important to the public?

This is just the question before the U.S. Supreme Court right now in a case entitled Dept. of Homeland Security v. MacLean. In this case, a former air marshal is suing the Department, claiming that he was wrongfully terminated after he blew the whistle on what he believed was a decision that could threaten public safety.

In 2003, the plaintiff, Mr. MacLean, received secret information about a threatened terrorist attack on long distance flights. Two days later, he was told that the government would no longer pay to have air marshals on flights requiring an overnight stay because it was too expensive. Mr. MacLean complained about this decision, and when the decision was not reversed, he alerted a news reporter. Read more here. He was then fired for this security breach.

Mr. MacLean claims that he is protected by, and that the government’s conduct was prohibited by, the federal Whistleblower Protection Act, which prohibits the government from firing employees if they disclose “a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.” The question for the Supreme Court is whether Mr. MacLean’s conduct falls into an exemption for conduct “specifically prohibited by law.”

What do you think? Do you think that employees have the right to speak out about important information like this, or do you believe that the government has the right to make decisions like this without having them splashed all over the news?