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Worker fired after police report cannot pursue Whistleblower claim.

Christopher Stay worked for Connections Employment Resource in the laundry facility at the Veterans Administration facility in Calhoun County.  In his two years with the company, he accumulated 13 disciplinary actions including a suspension.  In December of 2009, he reached into a laundry bag to "touch" an unfamiliar item identified by another employee, and a supervisory employee apparently slapped his hand back.  The employees sorting laundry were required to wear a double protective layer because of biohazards routinely discarded in the VA laundry, and Stay was unprotected when he reached to touch the unfamiliar object.

Stay then contacted police to report an assault and battery.  He and the co-employee were suspended immediately, and when the police concluded that Stay's complaint was unfounded, Stay was fired.  He appealed, arguing that he was fired contrary to the Whistleblower Protection Act after reporting to authorities an illegal act.

The Court held that despite the temporal proximity between Stay's report to police and his firing, there was "no causal nexus" between the two events.  It ruled that his record of prior discipline justified his firing and with that record, the employer had met its burden of proving that Stay's firing for disciplinary reasons was not a "mere pretext" for retaliation against a whistleblower.  In the trade, we say that bad facts make for bad law.  We all know that Stay calling the cops for such a ridiculous reason played a role in his employer's decision:  unfortunately, his case now stands for a broader principle that would preclude action by a whistleblower fired immediately after making a more reasonable report.

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