Chrylser work's WPA claim dismissed despite engagement in protected activity
Lawrence S. King worked as one of three wastewater treastment operators at the Chrysler Detroit Axle Plant. He filed suit arguing that he was discharged because he reported to City authorities the overflow of contaminated water from the plant. The trial judge dismissed this claim, holding that King's activities were not "protected activity" within the definition in the Whistleblower Protection Act. The appellate court overturned this holding, noting that an overflow is a violation of city ordinance, making King's actions the report of a "violation of the law."
Nevertheless, the higher court upheld King's discharge and dismissed his claim of retaliation. It pointed out that while King's report was protected activity, on that same date, King took actions that were directly aimed at disrupting the water treatment plant operations, including leaving the wastewater tanks full and eliminating the supervisor's ability to resolve a bypass incident. These actions constituted a separate and non-pretextual basis for terminating King's employment, regardless of the WPA issues involved.