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Award Under Michigan Whistleblower Act Reversed

May 8 | 2013  by

The Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed a jury verdict awarding more than $147,000 to a woman who claimed she was fired for reporting illegal activity.

Barbara Hays was a home care worker for Lutheran Social Services of Michigan.  One of her clients smoked marijuana in his house, including when she was present.  Ms. Hays informed her supervisor and, at one point, contacted the Bay Area Narcotics Enforcement Team (BAYANET) to find out if there were any legal consequences to her.  At the end of the phone call, she was asked if she wanted to take any further action but she declined.

When her supervisor later found out that she disclosed this patient information to an outside party, which was a violation of her confidentiality agreement, Ms. Hays was terminated.

Ms. Hays then filed a lawsuit under Michigan’s Whistleblower Act which provides a remedy to people who are fired for reporting a violation of law.

In order to provide relief, the Act requires the person to make a “report” of illegal activity; however, the Act does not actually define what constitutes a “report.” 

The Court of Appeals determined that Ms. Hays did not make a “report” of the incident to anyone because when she called law enforcement, she didn’t give any names, locations, or even the type of drug used.  She was merely seeking information and advice.  To provide her relief, the court said, would not further the purpose of the Whistleblower Act which is protecting the public by encouraging the reporting of illegal activity.

Because she failed to meet the requirements under the Act, the Court of Appeals reversed her jury award and dismissed her case.

If you have been retaliated against for reporting illegal activity, or have questions about this or other legal topics, contact the experienced legal team at Fausone Bohn, LLP at (248) 380-0000 or online.