Court reinstates employee who was fired after expressing safety concern
Leoni Township in Jackson County fired one of its employees, Ben Brzezinski, after he expressed concerns about working in an unreinforced excavation and refused to enter a six foot deep trench. Brzezinski brought an administrative action, claiming an illegal retaliatory firing, and he was supported by MiOSHA. His supervisors claimed the firing was for subordination, and denied a retaliatory motive or that Brzezinski had expressed safety concerns. The court noted, however, that the supervisors' testimony was inconsistent.
The administrative law judge who initially heard the claim ruled in favor of Brzezinski, however, the local Circuit judge set aside the administrative decision. The Court of Appeals reversed, noting that the lower court was bound by the ALJ's interpretation of the facts and was limited to reviewing the applicable law; it did not have the legal authority to set aside the ALJ's findings of fact. The court agreed with the AlJ's decision to reinstate Brzezinski, and the admonishment that if it were to discipline Brzezinski, it must be in accordance with the Township's four-step Disciplinary Procedure.