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Sterling Employment Law

Jury agrees Michigan prison warden demoted as retaliation

A former state prison warden was awarded $438,000 in damages after a jury ruled he had been subject to retaliation by his supervisors.

The jury in Ingham County Circuit Court deliberated about seven hours before voting 6-2 in favor of the man, formerly the warden in the Central Michigan Correctional Facility.

The Michigan Department of Corrections demoted the man, citing failure to comply with all terms of a court order. In 2013, he was stopped on suspicion of drunk driving, second offense. A year later, after an investigation that supposedly had to do with the drunk driving charge, he was demoted to resident unit manager and his pay was cut by $38,000 a year.

But is that really why he was demoted?

In court, his attorney argued that he was demoted because he supported his administrative assistant when she accused a high-ranking official of sexual harassment and discrimination. She was given a $190,000 settlement from the department in 2017.

The man, who retired in 2017 advocated for her when she complained about the conduct against her and was denied a promotion.

During the trial that lasted two-plus weeks, the jury heard evidence that the department often led internal affairs investigations designed to catch employees who had rubbed supervisors the wrong way. Some of the supervisors are no longer in place.

Whether working for the public, as this man did, or in private enterprise, employees have a right to speak out when they spot wrongdoings in the workplace without fear of retaliation. In this case, the jury believed the man's side of the story and thought he was a victim of retaliation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, turn to an employment law attorney for guidance about your next step.

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