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Sterling Employment Law

Settlement reached in Michigan whistleblower case

Under the terms of a lawsuit settlement, a former efficiency coordinator who worked for the mayor of the city of Warren must destroy telephone recordings he made of his former employer. The plaintiff taped two telephone conversations in which the city mayor threatened violence against an ex-communications director and a former city attorney, both of whom the mayor felt were to blame for some of his political problems. The plaintiff had filed suit against the mayor and the city on July 19. In the suit, he alleged that he had been the victim of discrimination as a result of his reporting these conversations and leading to his termination, which constituted a violation of the state's Whistleblowers' Protection Act.

The plaintiff will receive $175,000, an amount more than double his former salary of $66,933. Some other terms included in the settlement were the denial by the mayor and the city of any wrongdoing or law violations and the removal of a letter of suspension regarding the plaintiff.

The former employee must also turn over any transcripts and copies of the recordings he made to be destroyed by his attorney. Originally, the plaintiff had given the tapes to the Michigan State Police. The Macomb County Prosecutor's Office reviewed the recordings and determined that the mayor had not broken any laws, in part because the two individuals he had threatened violence against had not participated in the phone conversations.

Employees have a legal right to work free from intimidation and harassment in the workplace. Michigan's Whistleblowers' Protection Act was enacted to offer protection to certain classes of employees who have reported wrongdoings observed at their place of employment from retaliation by their employer.

Source: The Daily Tribune, "Whistleblower settlement: recordings of Warren Mayor Fouts must be destroyed", Norb Franz, December 23, 2013

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