Wis. high court: Whis­tle-blower law doesn’t pro­tect in­terns

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS - —As­so­ci­ated Press

Wis­con­sin’s law pro­tect­ing health­care work­ers who act as whistle­blow­ers doesn’t ap­ply to un­paid in­terns, the Wis­con­sin Supreme Court said last week.

The court said Asma Masri, a doc­toral stu­dent dis­missed from the Med­i­cal Col­lege of Wis­con­sin af­ter mak­ing an ethics com­plaint, did not qual­ify as an em­ployee be­cause she was not paid and did not re­ceive any ben­e­fits even though she worked 40 hours a week and had com­plete ac­cess to pa­tient records.

Jus­tice David Prosser re­ferred to the state’s La­bor and In­dus­try Re­view Com­mis­sion’s ear­lier de­ci­sion in Masri’s case.

The com­mis­sion’s “in­ter­pre­ta­tion is rea­son­able, and there is no more rea­son­able in­ter­pre­ta­tion,” Prosser wrote in the Supreme Court’s opinion. “Be­cause Masri re­ceived no com­pen­sa­tion or tan­gi­ble ben­e­fits, she was not an em­ployee of MCW and was there- fore not en­ti­tled to anti-re­tal­i­a­tion pro­tec­tion” un­der the law.

Masri was a doc­toral stu­dent at the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-Mil­wau­kee in 2008 when she be­gan a psy­chol­ogy in­tern­ship at the med­i­cal school, which placed her in the trans­plant surgery unit at Froedtert Hos­pi­tal. Masri said her in­tern­ship abruptly ended af­ter she told a col­lege ad­min­is­tra­tor that she had been or­dered to cre­ate a “bor­der­line per­son­al­ity” di­ag­no­sis to dis­credit a pa­tient who might file a mal­prac­tice law­suit.

The col­lege claimed it ended the in­tern­ship be­cause of per­for­mance con­cerns.

A spokes­woman for the col­lege said she did not have any in­for­ma­tion on how Masri’s al­le­ga­tions might have been ad­dressed.

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