Miron Construction Co. Inc. is firing back at a former employee who is suing the company for wrongful termination.
Michael Robertson, a former Miron project foreman, filed a complaint in March in Marathon County Circuit Court claiming he was fired after refusing to provide false time records for de-icing work at the Wisconsin Public Service Corp.’s Weston Power Plant in January 2009.
But William McCardell, Miron’s attorney with Madison-based DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, said Wednesday he soon will file a countersuit against Robertson arguing he defamed the company and abused an arbitration process. McCardell Tuesday night filed a motion to dismiss the ex-employee’s case against the Neenah-based contractor.
“He’s trying to set himself up as something he isn’t,” McCardell said. “He’s simply trying to get publicity.”
According to Robertson’s complaint, he called in about 20 union workers for the de-icing job, but only three or four people worked for more than five hours. But, according to the complaint, Robertson’s boss told him the next day to bill WPS 12 hours each for about 20 workers.
Miron fired Robertson one week after the de-icing project. McCardell said Robertson was fired because he did not get along with other workers.
Arguing his dismissal was in violation of Miron’s collective-bargaining agreement with Ironworkers Local 383, Robertson sought arbitration, which began in fall 2009. According to Robertson’s complaint, both sides tried to reach an informal agreement but failed, and Miron would not provide an arbitrator despite requests from Robertson’s attorney in December 2009 and January and February 2010.
McCardell said Miron did not provide an arbitrator because the company’s agreement with the North Central District Council of the Ironworkers superseded its agreement with Local 383, and the dispute needed to be resolved through the council. McCardell said he sent a letter to Robertson’s attorney in March to explain the district’s involvement but never heard back.
“They just went ahead and filed a lawsuit instead,” McCardell said.
Robertson’s attorney, Michael Lauterbach of Wisconsin Rapids-based Nash Podvin Attorneys at Law SC, said he filed the lawsuit because Miron did not respond to his requests. He would not comment on case specifics.
“I’m confident we’re going to be able to prove what we need to prove,” Lauterbach said.
But, McCardell said, Robertson is mistaken in his attempt to be a whistle-blower. The Miron attorney said the contractor and WPS agreed to pay workers time and a half for their work on the de-icing project, and Robertson knew about that agreement.
“Some of these workers had to drive an hour and a half to get there, and WPS agreed it would be fair to pay them for their driving time in addition to the time they spent on the job,” McCardell said. “It was a bitterly cold day, and it would have been hard to convince people to make that drive if they were only going to end up making $75.
“There was no falsifying of records.”
The contractor, McCardell said, will file the defamation suit to rebuke Robertson’s accusations.
“We’re not going to sit back and take this,” McCardell said. “Everything we did, we did with full consent and prior knowledge.”