Help! My employer asked me to do something illegal!

At Gold Star Law, we get calls all the time from people who say that their supervisor or boss has asked them to do something that they think is against the law.  Some health care employers ask their employees to commit Medicare or Medicaid fraud.  Some trucking companies ask their drivers to drive more than the number of hours allowed by the Department of Transportation.  Some companies ask employees to handle financial transactions in such a way as to avoid paying taxes that the company legally should pay.  Lots of employers ask people to do things that are against the law, and employees want to know- can they say no?

Michigan recognizes a cause of action called “public policy discharge,” which means that it is illegal to fire an employee for a reason that goes against “public policy” interests.  This includes firing an employee for refusing to break the law.  If your employer asks you to do something that it illegal and you refuse, it is illegal for your employer to then fire you for that refusal.

There are, of course, some additional details to consider.  It is not illegal to fire someone for refusing to do something that is not illegal, even if the employee thinks it is wrongful or unethical.  Sometimes employees are wrong about what actions are or are not legal- you may be refusing to do something because YOU think it would break the law, but the action itself would not be illegal, which means that your employer can fire you for that refusal.  Another issue to consider is that you have to be able to show that your refusal to do the illegal act was, in fact, the reason for your firing.  If you refuse to do something illegal and your employer continues to employ you, and you are later fired for some unrelated issue such as attendance or poor performance, you may have a very hard time showing that your refusal to do something illegal in the past was the REAL reason for the termination.

If you have refused to do something illegal and were fired for it, call Gold Star Law to find out if you have a case.