August 15, 2013

Employment News Whistleblower Retaliation

New Protections for Minnesota Whistleblowers

Recently, the Minnesota legislature amended the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA) to provide additional protections to employees.  The Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA) is aimed at protecting workers who identify and report illegal activity within their company or organization.  The MWA prohibits retaliation against any employee who makes a good faith report of illegal activity to the employee’s employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official.  Retaliation may include termination, disciplinary action, threats or otherwise penalizing an employee.

New amendments to the law set forth in the 2013 legislative session expand legal protections to whistleblowers and became effective May 25, 2013.  The following is a summary of the amendments that offer additional protections to Minnesota whistleblowers:

“Good faith” requires only that the report was not made falsely. Prior to the amendments, Minnesota courts had established that a “good faith report” was one that was made “for the purpose of exposing an illegality.” Under the new amendment, an employee makes a report in good faith so long as it was not false or in reckless disregard of the truth. This impacts plaintiff employees because they will no longer have to demonstrate the end goal of their report.

Employees can report misconduct before it has occurred. Under the new amendments, the term “report” refers to an employee’s communications about “an actual, suspected, or planned violation.” Including the use of the word “planned” the MWA is expanding protections to include employees who report illegal conduct or suspected violations that have not yet occurred.

Whistleblowers can report violations of law and common law offenses. MWA has also been expanded to protect employees who not only report violations of law, but violations of common law, including breach of contract, deflation or fraud.  An employee could be reporting a breach of contract with another individual or entity, not simply flouting a law.

Employees are now protected against “third party” reports. Prior to the amendments, whistleblower laws only applied to retaliation arising from reports against their employer. New amendments give employees protection against reporting “third parties,” including customers, suppliers, and vendors. Under new MWA amendments, employees have more protection when reporting misconduct of third-parties, not just their employer.

MWA has broadened definition of “penalize” to include post-employment and non-work-related actions. Amendments have redefined penalize to include “conduct that might dissuade a reasonable employee” from reporting illegal conduct or wrongdoing. Under the new definitions, the employer’s actions do not have to relate directly to employment status or the workplace. This also protects employees against post-employment retaliation.

The attorneys at Wanta Thome are experienced in representing plaintiffs under the MWA.  If you believe you have been retaliated against for making a whistleblower report, contact one of our attorneys so we can review your case and claim.

More information about the Minnesota Whistleblower Act can be found on the Employee Rights section of our website on our Whistleblower Retaliation webpage.