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Under the Whistleblower Protection Act (Act), a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case by showing that: (1) the plaintiff was engaged in protected activity as defined by the Act, (2) a defendant took an adverse employment action against the plaintiff, and (3) a causal connection exists between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. Because whistleblower claims are analogous to other antiretaliation employment claims brought under employment discrimination statutes prohibiting various discriminatory animuses, they should receive treatment under the standards of proof of those analogous claims.
The terminated employee filed a whistleblower claim under MCL 15.362, asserting that she was terminated for her complaints regarding a transfer of funds and use of an ambulance service that appeared to violate a millage the county voters had passed. The employer moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(8) and (10), and claimed she had not made a prima facie case under the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA). The trial court denied the motion. A jury returned a verdict in her favor. On appeal, the appellate court held that the employee was not engaged in protected activity under the WPA, reversed the trial court's denial of the summary disposition motion, and remanded the case to it for it to enter an order granting summary disposition to the employer.
Did the employee make a prima facie case under the Whistleblower Protection Act?
The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's judgment and reinstated the trial court's denial of the employer's motion for summary disposition. The state supreme court found that the employee showed a temporal relationship between the protected activity and the employer's adverse employment action and, thus, the trial court's denial of the employer's summary disposition motion had to be reinstated. Moreover, the legality of the employer's action, rather than the alleged budgetary wisdom of it, was at issue and meant that the doctrine of separation of powers was not violated.