A lot of the focus in the two days since Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier were fired has shifted to the question of why those two are out and yet Mike McQueary is still gainfully employed by Penn State.
McQueary, as you no doubt know by now, was a 28-year-old graduate assistant in 2002 when, according to the grand jury’s presentment in the Jerry Sandusky child rape case, he witnessed Sandusky sodomizing a 10-year-old boy in a football building shower. His actions in the moment and after the fact have led to a firestorm of criticism for the current wide receivers coach/recruiting coordinator and many, many other school officials.
The reasons why he wasn’t shown the door along with Paterno and Spanier, however, may be legal in nature.
A partner at a Philadelphia law firm tells the Patriot-News that McQueary could be protected from being fired or forced to resign due to his status as a whistleblower. Under Pennsylvania law, a whistleblower is defined as a “person who witnesses or has evidence of wrongdoing or waste while employed and who makes a good faith report of the wrongdoing or waste, verbally or in writing, to one of the person’s superiors, to an agent of the employer or to an appropriate authority.”
Per his grand jury testimony, McQueary took the allegation of wrongdoing involving Sandusky to his superiors — first Paterno, and then athletic director Tim Curley. As “a public body” as defined in the state’s statute, and if McQueary is indeed a whistleblower in the legal sense, Penn State would be forbidden from doing the following:
(a) PERSONS NOT TO BE DISCHARGED — No employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee or a person acting on behalf of the employee makes a good faith report or is about to report, verbally or in writing, to the employer or appropriate authority an instance of wrongdoing or waste .
(b) DISCRIMINATION PROHIBITED – No employer may discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate or retaliate against an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment because the employee is requested by an appropriate authority to participate in an investigation, hearing or inquiry held by an appropriate authority or in a court action.
One of Penn State’s’s trustees hinted to the paper that the whistleblower law may indeed prevent the university, if it wanted to, from relieving McQueary of his coaching duties.
“He’s a witness. He’s different from the others, so he has to be treated differently,” emeritus trustee Boyd Wolff said.
While McQueary is still employed, he will not coach this Saturday’s game against Nebraska. The school announced Thursday that, due to multiple threats made against the assistant, “McQueary will not be in attendance” at the game.