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Sterling Employment Law

Bay City prison employees sue sheriff for wrongful termination

According to the Michigan Public Employment Relations Act and the Michigan Whistleblowers' Protection Act, every employee in the public sector is entitled to a certain rights. These rights are meant to protect employees from any kind of wrongdoing by employers at the workplace. Therefore, when these rights are violated, employees are entitled to seek justice from the state's judicial system citing violation of these laws.

Recently, two former employees from the Bay County Jail filed a lawsuit against the sheriff alleging wrongful termination. The plaintiffs mentioned in their petition that they faced retaliation after they exercised their First Amendment right to free speech during an internal investigation into another jail employee's alleged misconduct. The plaintiffs are seeking more than $75,000 in damages.

In December 2013, an internal investigation was being carried out after a jail employee allegedly brought prescription mouthwash to the prison and instructed fellow employees to pass it along to an inmate. The two plaintiffs, who held positions in the prison workers' union, released a memo that reminded the prison employee of his rights in the event of being questioned by a superior officer in the course of an internal investigation.

The memo also stated that its intention was not to instigate the prison employee -- who was accused of misconduct -- to encumber the investigation, but instead, to inform him of his right to union representation in the event of an internal investigation into an employee's misconduct. According to the lawsuit, the sheriff considered this interference with an ongoing investigation and threatened the plaintiffs with criminal prosecution over the issuance of the memo.

Following these incidents, one of the plaintiffs met the undersheriff who told him that he could either resign or be terminated. He chose to resign. The other plaintiff, in the meantime was suspended indefinitely before being officially fired in April 2014. According to latest reports, the plaintiffs were currently engaged in an arbitration proceeding, seeking reinstatement.

Source: Corrections One, "Mich. jail staff file suit alleging wrongful termination," July 1, 2014

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