Ferrand Successfully Represents Michigan Municipality in Whistleblowers’ Action

Tim Ferrand, a partner in our Clinton Township office, was successful in representing our client, a Michigan municipality.

This case arose after the plaintiff was terminated for physically assaulting a fellow employee, in violation of the Defendant municipality’s workplace violence policy. The plaintiff was a refuse collector in the sanitation department. The plaintiff held the position for 140 days until the time he was terminated for assaulting a fellow refuse collector.

On March 6, 2009, the plaintiff filed suit, alleging violations of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.  Ferrand filed a motion for summary disposition in the trial court on behalf of our client. On May 12, 2010, the trial court entered an Order granting our client’s Motion for Summary Disposition. On May 25, 2010, the plaintiff filed his claim of appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals.

In the appeal brief and at oral argument, he asked that the Court of Appeals affirm the trial court’s grant of summary disposition in favor of our client.  Ferrand pointed out that the evidence demonstrates the plaintiff was terminated for physically assaulting a co-worker, and he failed to show he was terminated for reporting any violations of law. Likewise, he explained the plaintiff is unable to rebut the Defendant’s legitimate reason for discharge.

While the plaintiff continually attempted to downplay the assault during oral argument, Ferrand explained that the fact of the matter is that the plaintiff admitted to assaulting a co-worker, which was a valid reason for termination. He reminded the Court that case law provides that it was not for the Court to second-guess the business decisions of an employer. Similarly, Ferrand reminded the Court of case law stating that reporting violations of law does not immunize an employee from an otherwise legitimate adverse employment action.

The Michigan Court of Appeals found in favor of our client, affirming the grant of our client’s Motion for Summary Disposition. In their Opinion, the Court held that summary disposition for our client was proper “because plaintiff failed to rebut defendant’s proffered legitimate reason for discharge by showing that it was a mere pretext for retaliation.” The Court of Appeals agreed with our argument that the municipality had a legitimate reason for terminating the plaintiff since he admitted to physically assaulting his co-worker.