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Michigan whistleblower vows to appeal wrongful termination case

A former employee who believes that he was wrongfully terminated for reporting misconduct will appeal a Michigan jury's decision that his dismissal was not unlawful, his attorney said last week.

Last Tuesday, a jury in Harbor Springs found that while the employee, a former technology director for Harbor Springs Public Schools, did engage in protected activity when he reported the alleged misconduct, there was enough evidence to suggest that he was fired for reasons other than reporting the misconduct.

The former technology director had notified school officials that he believed other school employees had used school computers to view pornographic material, had sold a laser printer without following proper protocol and were using pirated software on school-issued technology.

He believes he was fired for reporting those activities, but representatives for Harbor Springs Public Schools have said he was dismissed for disseminating "sensitive information" in the widely circulated memo in which he identified the alleged misconduct.

The former technology director was placed on leave in December 2009 and fired in February 2010. He brought his lawsuit in April 2010, alleging that his termination violated Michigan's Whistleblower Protection Act.

The attorney representing the former technology director has said he will appeal the decision. He also said the lawsuit has resulted in changes in Harbor Springs schools, such as increased technological security meant to foil attempts to view pornography and the discontinuation of "yard sales" in which the schools sell equipment they no longer use.

The decision to file an appeal is one that should be made carefully and with thought. It's natural to be disappointed if a court case does not come out in your favor, but it's wise to undertake the time and effort of an appeal only after you and an attorney have discussed the matter and are in agreement about your objectives.

Source: The Petoskey News, "Jury rules in favor of Harbor Springs in Bo Whitfield case," Morgan Sherburne, March 1, 2013

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