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EMPLOYMENT LAW 8/30/06

City of Detroit intentionally shredded documents related to laid-off employees

In October of 2005, The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, Council 25 (AFSCME) submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the City of Detroit seeking information related to the layoffs of several AFSCME members, which the union contended were unlawful. On August 18, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge William Giovan found the City intentionally shredded many of these documents after the City received the request. The Court ordered the City to pay AFSCME's attorney fees, costs and punitive damages.

Initially, the City failed to respond to the FOIA request. AFSCME instituted an action in Wayne County Circuit Court to compel the City to comply with its obligations under FOIA. In June, a Court Order was entered allowing AFSCME representatives to inspect the documents on site at the various Neighborhood City Hall locations. When the AFSCME representatives appeared at these sites they found that the City had destroyed many of the documents.

The union represented several employees that were laid off on July 5, 2006. The union requested information regarding the activities of the remaining non-union employees at the various Neighborhood City Hall locations where the laid-off workers had been employed. A charge is currently pending before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission alleging the City engaged in illegal activity when it laid off these employees. AFSCME believes the documents that were destroyed could have demonstrated whether the City's actions were in fact unlawful.

Source: Miller Cohen P.L.C.

For more information on this and other topics, consult CCH Employment Practices Guide or CCH Labor Relations.

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