In East Lansing, Michigan, a former city water treatment employee alleges to have been fired for alerting the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality about potentially hazardous conditions at the East Lansing water treatment center.
Troy Williams was fired last year on December 31st. City officials claim he was fired due to restrictions making him unable to perform his job, while Williams contends that it was retaliation for his whistleblowing activities. Williams had been a pump mechanic specialist with the city for nearly 10 years before being fired in 2018. Manda Denieleski, the lawyer representing Williams, remarked that the case sends an important message of solitary to future whistleblowers.
According to the lawsuit, Williams is claiming protected status as a whistleblower. Williams says that he made multiple reports to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality over the years about hazards at the facility. He also alleges that the city threatened to fire him when he brought his concerns to their attention.
Williams is also involved in a preexisting lawsuit from 2015 that alleges the city of East Lansing covered up a 2007 study that found asbestos in the facility and that the city mishandled a 2013 mercury spill that endangered workers. Echoing the earlier threat, several employees have come forward saying the city told them to keep quiet about the asbestos report. East Lansing has been fined twice for asbestos and mercury-related problems. The first time for violating safety standards pertaining to asbestos and mercury and the second time for failing to correct the problems outlined in the first fine.
Williams is hoping to see a financial win from the city that will recover his lost wages and non-economic damages he has sustained—including health problems he alleges are connected to asbestos exposure. He also hopes to recoup the legal fees relating to his case. His lawyer commented that such fees can become quite high in these types of cases. Williams and his lawyer have hired the services of an economics expert to help better calculate the damages.