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Employee who "reasonably believes" he has been asked to act illegally is not protected from retaliation

James Kendall was employed by Integrated Interiors, Inc., as a project manager.  He believed that his company was regularly over-charging a client for its services, although he admitted that engineers employed by the client had approved the suspect over-charges.  When he telephoned his supervisor to dispute the practice, he was terminated the following day.  He filed suit alleging that his discharge was wrongful and constituted a violation of public policy. 

The Court of Appeals rejected Kendall's wrongful discharge claim and upheld its dismissal.  It concluded that to constitute a wrongful retaliation, the employee must prove that his employer was violating established law, and identify an objective legal source establishing the asserted public policy.  Athough Kendall may have reasonably believed that he was being asked to participate in inappropriate activity, he could not prove that his employer's billing practices were illegal; nor could he establish an objectively adopted public policy.  This left him opent to discharge at will under Michigan law. 

The Court also addressed Kendall's claim that the employer had "knowingly placed false information in his personnel file" contrary to the Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act.  While the employer claimed that Kendall must attempt to negotiate a compromise regarding the content of the file before he could file suit to remove false material, the Court rejected this claim, citing the express language of the statute according employees a direct legal remedy.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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