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Differing court interpretations of law draw out whistleblowing case

When it comes to state laws, people in Michigan know that it can get complicated and sometimes hard to follow. But what many people may not realize is that it's because of these complexities that cases often times get caught up in the court system for long periods of time before a resolution is ever made.

Such was the case for a Lake County woman whose wrongful termination lawsuit has been subject to a series of interpretations by several of the state courts before she finally saw a successful determination this month. Part of the problem lay in the courts' differing interpretation of whistleblowing laws and how her termination was directly related to complaints she had filed nearly ten years prior.

The woman, the former director of the Lake County's 911department, believes that she was fired as a direct result of two separate complaints she filed with the Board of Commissioners. Protected by the state's Whistleblower Protection Act, she felt that the timing of her complaints in conjunction with the decision for her dismissal 11 days later violated her employee rights and fell under the category of retaliatory actions on her employer's part.

But it's been an uphill struggle to prove this in the court system however. Her claim was first approved by a trial court which denied the county's motion for a summary disposition, but this decision was quickly reversed by the Court of Appeals who sided with the county. When the case proceeded to the Michigan Supreme Court, the judge once again sided in the woman's favor, reversing the Court of Appeals' decision, thereby sending it back to the lower courts.

But because of how the Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court interpreted the law, her case was once more sent through the court system before finally reaching resolution in front of the Michigan Supreme Court which agreed that she had been wrongfully terminated from her job as a result of her complaints.

Many people in the state would have mixed emotions about a situation such as this. For most, the constant back and forth would be a nightmare, causing more frustration than it might be worth. But on the flip side, hearing a final decision in your favor could give you the rush of relief you need to realize it was all worth it in the end.

Source: hr.blr.com, "Whistleblowing: Was Michigan employee terminated for complaints?" March 12, 2013

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