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Can an Employer Terminate You Because You Reported a Suspected Violation of the Law to a Private Lawyer?

You suspect that your employer, or even someone else, has violated a law.  You report that belief to a licensed attorney.  The employer finds out that you reported your suspicion to an attorney and fires you for doing so.  Is the termination illegal?  In Michigan, the answer is probably yes.

In the case of McNeill-Marks v. MidMichigan Medical Center, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the State Bar of Michigan is a “public body” covered by the Michigan Whistleblower Protection Act, such that a report of suspected illegality to a member of the State Bar (in other words, a licensed attorney) is protected by the Act, and that it is therefore illegal for a employer to terminate the employee for making the report to the attorney.  Unhappy with the result, the employer in the McNeill-Marks case asked the Michigan Supreme Court to review and reverse the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the employee.  Ultimately, the Michigan Supreme Court declined to review the case, and left the Court of Appeals decision in effect.  The result is that the Court of Appeals decision in favor of the employee is, and will remain the rule of law for the foreseeable future.  As such, an employer cannot terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee because he or she reported a suspected violation of the law to a licensed attorney.

We hope you found this update to be helpful.  Please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions.


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