Lt. Twana Powell was the head of internal affairs for the Michigan State Police for 25 years and worked on numerous high-profile cases. She worked to investigate judges, mayors, and police officers. She was the first woman in that position and was in charge of cases investigating State Police employees.
Powell filed a whistleblower lawsuit in 2018 alleging race and sex discrimination and a hostile work environment. She alleged repeated disparate treatment of women and minorities in the department and mistreatment of minority citizens who had come into contact with the Michigan State Police.
Powell alleged in her lawsuit that high-ranking department officials were unaccepting of her promotion to head of internal affairs. Powell had requested review of an incident involving the arrest of a black man who was driving drunk. The man was disabled and the squad video of his traffic stop shows a Michigan State Trooper pull his cane away from him and the Trooper slamming him to the ground. Powell requested prosecutors to review the incident for unlawful excessive force and was denied. This was just one example of denials of Powell’s requests for investigation.
Michigan whistleblower laws and retaliation
Powell’s lawsuit is one of many whistleblower lawsuits. A whistleblower is an employee who reports unethical acts of her employer to authorities. These reports often result in employer retaliation due to the harsh penalties employers can face. Employers may retaliate against whistleblowers by firing, suspending, and denying pay or benefits.
There are laws in Michigan to protect whistleblowers from retaliation for both public and private employees. Employees may receive from the court reinstatement of their prior job, back pay, reinstatement of benefits, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Contacting an experienced attorney who has handled whistleblower cases can ensure employees receive due remedies.