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Sterling Employment Law

Michigan county embroiled in wrongful termination lawsuit

Most Michigan workers are employed at the employer's discretion or at will. If an employer determines that the services of an employee are no longer needed, the employer is generally free to termite the employee for any reason or for no reason at all. However, the employee also has rights under state law and if an employee believes that he or she was unjustifiably or wrongfully terminated then he or she may initiate a lawsuit against the employer.

Recently a rather high-profile wrongful termination lawsuit has been proceeding toward trial in Wayne County. A former county employee filed the lawsuit alleging that his services were terminated by the County development chief when he refused to transfer money to a nonprofit corporation that paid bonuses to the development chief. One of the most controversial pieces of evidence to come forth during the litigation was a severance payment to the development chief upon her resignation, equaling one year's salary of around $200,000.

The former County Executive and the development chief claim that the large severance agreement was legal and consistent with prior practice and that since a written severance plan had not been formulated prior to the development chief's voluntary departure, a severance plan had to be formulated later. Federal investigators have said that federal criminal charges on grounds of corruption would not be pursued, but the wrongful termination lawsuit continues to gain media attention.

An employee has the right under Michigan law to refuse to carry out any assignment if it violates state or federal laws or even an established public policy. In such cases most employees find it beneficial to consult professional legal help in order to understand and establish their rights.

Source: Detroit Free Press, "Was Robert Ficano duped into signing Turkia Mullin severance letter?" John Wisely, Feb. 27, 2015

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