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Detroit Employment Law Blog

Whistleblower for TSA wins Supreme Court decision

In the wake of 9/11, a TSA federal air marshal unleashed information that TSA's Federal Air Marshal Service intended to remove air marshals from transcontinental flights. These were flights that were targeted for another terrorist attack by Al Qaeda per a confirmed 2003 plan.

Because of the federal air marshal's whistleblowing in 2003, protection for passengers was restored, and the planned terrorist attack was prevented. But the whistleblower paid for his act by being fired from the TSA and banned from law enforcement.

Was severance package for college president excessive?

In the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, the president of Michigan State University resigned from her position of presidency after facing angry and vicious criticism. Lou Ann Simons, claimed it is "only natural that I am the focus of this anger," and therefore she is limiting any personal statements, but was resigning "according to the terms of her employment agreement."

Well, it is that employment agreement that now has some people complaining. In her contract, she has an option to return to employment as a faculty member. Her first year's salary would at the same full salary she was earning as president, $750,000. Her second year's salary would be only 75 percent of that salary, but still a massive amount of $563,000.

Woman fired for her pregnancy

Pregnant women all across the country are still finding discrimination in the workplace a problem when it comes to motherhood. Approximately 31,000 charges were filed for discrimination against pregnant women in the U.S. from 2010 to 2015. That averages around 6,000 per year.

One 30-year-old woman working for an Atlanta Walmart Distribution Center was fired this past June after admitting to her supervisor she was pregnant. When she began having morning sickness at work and requested a break from her job as a packer, her supervisor said she must have a note from her doctor.

Flint water contamination trial and whistleblower testimony

The trial is underway in Flint, Mich., regarding citywide lead water contamination. Three suspended employees and one fired employee from the Department of Environmental Quality are charged with involuntary manslaughter and misconduct in the office.

The charges are the result of accusations dollowing a switchover of water systems in April 2014. The claim is that the three suspended water regulators and the head of the division responsible for the switchover failed to properly treat the water. The untreated water system, which was switched from the Detroit water system to the Flint River, continued to have rising levels of lead and other contaminants coming in from the Flint River until sometime in 2015.

Filing discrimination charges

Employee discrimination charges can be filed with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights or with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Discrimination, under Michigan's Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act, is asserted any time an employer uses race, color, national origin, age, sex, weight, height, marital status, religious beliefs or the arrest record of an individual to preclude them from employment or to harass or treat them unfairly in the workplace.

Do all employers fall under this law? Any employer who has employees is subjected to the Michigan discrimination laws. The MDCR handles discrimination cases for workplaces with less than 14 employees. The EEOC enforces the discrimination law for workplaces with 15 or more employees.

How Sandra Day O'Connor changed sexual harassment law

Passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on sex. But a series of court decisions have shaped the legal details regarding sexual harassment.

One landmark decision was made in 1993, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 9-0 that individuals who sue their employers for sexual harassment do not have to prove they suffered psychological injury.

Being a whistleblower may take some bravery

If you see something going on at your business or with your employer that you know is wrong, do you have what it takes to be a whistleblower? It is not unusual to not want to be the one to expose unethical practices or illegal activity. It can be scary to say the least, and for good reason.

However, there are laws to protect whistleblowers. The Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act states that it is against the law "for employers in Michigan to discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate against you regarding your compensation, terms, conditions, location or privileges of employment" in retaliation for being a whistleblower. If any of these things occur, you can seek legal help for protection. Your attorney can advise you on how to handle different situations and take any necessary legal action.

Menards founder wins case against former girlfriend/employee

What happens when you don't have an employee contract and you mix work and pleasure? Apparently, nothing good. The founder of Menards building supply stores, John Menard, and his ex-fiancée would probably both attest to this. Unfortunately, when in a relationship, people often overlook the tedious little things like a business contract when they begin working together.

Menard apparently allowed his girlfriend to contribute her professional time and services to his business during their nine-year relationship. The couple broke up in 2006. In 2008, two years later, the former girlfriend filed a lawsuit for compensation for promises she claims Menard made to her but failed to keep. According to the former girlfriend, she was promised ownership shares in his business for work and services tendered.

C-level employees: Your legal needs

Are you a C-level employee? If you are, you know that your legal needs can be as complex as your job. Your responsibilities are probably much greater than a lower-level employee. Depending on your position, chief executive officer (CEO), chief operating officer (COO) or chief financial officer (CFO), you may be hiring and firing, making stock decisions, doing salary negotiations and overseeing multiple departments or employees.

Your employment contract should be thoroughly reviewed by your attorney before signing. There may be clauses in it that are carefully written and can be incorrectly construed. Look for noncompete agreements that may prevent you from a similar position in another company should you decide to move on. These can be negotiable; don't let them lock you in too tightly.

State accused of destroying evidence in discrimination case

A lawsuit filed against the Michigan Department of Corrections for discrimination against female correctional officers has been ongoing since June 2016. At least that is when the initial complaint was filed.

Now the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed sanctions against the corrections department because they claim that the State destroyed records that were critical for the prosecution. A Dec. 13 motion stated that they "failed to preserve the documents 'after they had received notice of anticipated litigation.'"

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