A Billings agricultural contracting business is still locked in a dispute about whether its former employee was wrongfully terminated for voicing safety concerns.

The lawsuit filed against Agri-Systems by the U.S. Department of Labor claimed former employee Steve Petry was fired in 2018 after raising concerns about one of the company’s projects in Illinois.

But in its July response, Agri-Systems asked for the case to be dismissed.

The Billings-based company, which does business under the name ASI Industrial, maintains that Petry was not fired but voluntarily resigned, handing over his office key and saying he had other job offers. 

The U.S. Labor Department’s suit claimed Petry was an electrical engineer, but the company said he had no such certification and was employed only as a support member of a design team.

The company also said it checked out Petry’s concerns, but some ran contrary to the National Electrical Code or to manufacturer instructions.

Petry said his safety concerns fell “on deaf ears” and he had no choice but to report them to officials in Illinois, where the feed mill project was located.

But the company said Petry was relying on incomplete knowledge of the setup and “inaccurate technical assumptions.”

Petry had said the company was installing the wrong size wires at the Illinois project, but the company said it had field employees check, and they were installing the correct size.

Petry also argued that the project wasn’t conducting the proper ground fault testing, while the company said the feed mill was exempt from ground fault testing under the National Electrical Code. Such testing, it said, could cause a shutdown and additional hazards.

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Justice Reporter

Justice reporter for the Billings Gazette.