Employee who loses arbitration had only 21 days to file lawsuit
Firefighter-EMT Kevin Leverett sued his former employer, Delta Township in Clinton County, alleging that his employer violated their severance agreement by disparaging his abilities to prospective employers. The agreement clearly prohibited either party from making disparaging statements about the other, and when Leverett was being evaluated for employment by the East Lansing Fire Department, an interview with his former employer resulted in the ELFD deciding not to hire him.
The ELFD Chief explained that the Township Fire Chief attributed Leverett's termination to an inability to separate his personal life from his work duties, and characterized this as a "large deterrent" from hiring Leverett. The ELFD's chief twice referred to Leverett's "dismissal." Despite this disparaging characterization of the severance and the ELFD's characterization of the report received from the Township, an arbitrator ruled that the Township had not violated the severance agreement.
Leverett sought to appeal this decision and filed a complaint in the Circuit Court 90 days later. The Court ruled that even though the arbitrators decision appeared to ignore evidence including ELFD twice referring to Leverett's "dismissal" -- resulting from his inability to separate his personal and professional lives-- it would not intervene to overturn the arbitration. It held that pursuant to Court Rule, Leverett was obligatetd to file a complaint within 30 days of the arbitration decision in order to overturn it. Further, the Court held that it was constrained to decide only whether the arbitrator had exceeded her authority--and that it was not empowered to re-evaluate the actual decision.