INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) - Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced on Wednesday that he has reached a settlement with the Michigan City Sanitary District for firing a whistleblower.
Under terms of the settlement, the Michigan City Sanitary District has agreed to pay Ron Meer $215,000, which is believed to be the most any employer has had to pay for violating whistleblower-protection laws under state statute, Zoeller said.
Meer was terminated from his position in April after filing three complaints about unsafe working conditions at the MCSD treatment facility.
"Worker safety issues should not be ignored, nor should anyone face the loss of their job for seeking to correct unsafe working conditions," Zoeller said.
"No one is above the law, and that includes local government entities. If they engage in illegal workplace retaliation against employees, they will face swift enforcement of the law by the State of Indiana.
Upon being fired, Meer filed a grievance against his ex-employer with the Indiana Department of Labor, which is responsible for ensuring state occupational safety and health laws.
A lawsuit was filed against the municipal government of Michigan City and its Sanitary District on June 29, with Zoeller representing the commissioner of the Department of Labor. Under Indiana Code 22-8-1.1-38.1, the labor commissioner may bring a lawsuit against an employer for terminating a worker for reporting workplace safety and health violations illegally.
Although the defendant denies any wrongdoing, it agreed to settle the case. The agreement calls for half of the money to be paid to Meer now, with the other half paid in January. A neutral job reference must also be provided for the employee, who promised not to seek work again in the District.
Furthermore, The Sanitary District agreed to injunctive relief and must post a standard notice advising its employees of their rights.
"Attempts to silence these courageous individuals through workplace retaliation will be strongly resisted by the State of Indiana," Zoeller said. "The $215,000 settlement will send a powerful message to other employers about the necessity of following the law."