This article originally appeared in a previous issue of “Public Safety Labor News” and is reprinted courtesy of Labor Relations Information System.
September 30th, 2014 Michigan has a statute, known as MCL 15.395, that provides that Garrity statements made by employees pursuant to an employer’s orders are “confidential communications.” As two former officers for the City of Portage Police Department learned, simply having protections under a statute doesn’t necessarily mean there is a remedy if those protections are violated.
Officers Douglas Louis and James Myers were involved in internal affairs investigations, and gave compelled and involuntary Garrity statements in the course of those investigations. Soon after, the City terminated both officers’ employment. Richard White, who serves as Portage’s Director of Public Safety, commented on the terminations in media interviews.
Louis and Myers sued, alleging that White’s comments breached their rights to confidentiality under MCL 15.395. Michigan’s Court of Appeals rejected the lawsuit.
The Court held that “MCL 15.395 establishes no cause of action and confers no remedy. And Michigan case law holds that no cause of action can be inferred against a governmental defendant. The trial court therefore properly dismissed the officers’ claims for violation of MCL 15.395.
“The officers make the facially appealing, but unavailing, argument that it is unfair for the Legislature to grant a right under MCL 15.395 without providing an effective remedy to enforce that right. But making public policy is the province of the Legislature, not the courts. We say this without denigrating the importance of this right to confidentiality, but only as a clear statement of law regarding the limits of our authority and the extent of the Legislature’s.”
Myers v. City of Portage, 304 Mich. App. 637 (2014).