Wayne County firing of Safety Engineer is upheld
Robert Skrzypczak, a safety engineer, was employed by Wayne County to investigate the increase in assaults by residents upon staff employees at its Juvenile Detention Facility. The County eventually decided that Skrzypczak was too cozy with Union personnel and "creating tension" between union and management. It reassigned him, and ultimately terminated his employment. He sued, alleging that the County's termination constituted a violation of the Public Employee Relations Act.The lower court dismissed his termination claim but held that the County did violate the PERA by instructing Skrzypczak not to have any further contact with Local 409, which represented hte employees at the Facility. The court explained that between questions about Skrzypczak's driver's license and questions about his criminal history, the County's discharge was not illegal, although its instruction to avoid Union members was.
The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of Skrzypczak's discharge claim but reversed the lower court's holding on the PERA violation. Judges Whitbeck, Zahra and Fort Hood ruled that the finding that the Plaintiff was instructed to avoid contact with Local members was supported by competent, material evidence and therefore must be upheld. Nevertheless, it overturned the finding that the instruction was a breach of the PERA, because it ruled that Skrzypczak's contact with the Union--in his employment context--was not legally-protected activity under the statute.