An Ingham County lawsuit has recovered $250,000 for a former City of Lansing waste water treatment plant employee. In July of 2020, former assistant Superintendent Jeffrey Overstrom was terminated by the City of Lansing after questioning if another employee was properly experienced to apply for a higher waste water operator license. All operator licenses are controlled by state regulations and Michigan's Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE). Overstrom contacted EGLE to have them check the employee's past experience in large waste water facilities. Overstrom was directed to contact EGLE at the request of the plant superintendent. Following his termination, Bos & Glazier, a Grand Rapids law firm, filed a complaint in Ingham County Circuit Court for a violation of Michigan's Whistleblower Protection Act.
The City of Lansing claimed that Overstrom's actions were retaliatory in relation to an internal dispute in the plant. The City's HR director said that if Overstrom “had concerns about [an employee's] qualifications, that it should have been brought to HR and not to the State of Michigan.” But Judge Clinton Canaday found that Overstrom's actions constituted “protected activity” under the law. Further, the Judge was “really just baffled” that Overstrom was “the one that ends up getting discharged for doing what his supervisor told him to do.”
Following Judge Canady's decision, the City filed an Application for Leave to Appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals. But after a valuation of the damages during the Case Evaluation process, the City elected to settle the matter for the amount awarded by the case evaluation panel. Case evaluation is a process where a panel of three attorneys evaluate the claims in a particular matter and attempt to value the case. The panel valued Overstrom's case at $250,000, but Overstrom's attorney, Brad Glazier, said that if the case went to trial, the amount of damages could have been substantially higher.
Lansing's City Counsel approved a settlement amount of $250,000, as recommended by the case evaluation panel. Following the parties' agreement, the Ingham County case and the pending appeal were dismissed.