March 25, 2022

Employment Law

Minnesota Whistleblower Act: Protecting Healthcare Employees Who Report Substandard Services

The Minnesota Whistleblower Act protects employees from retaliation for reporting illegal—and in some cases unethical—activity in the workplace. But it also specifically protects employees who report substandard or low-quality healthcare services. This is true whether the standard is established by law or by a nationally recognized clinical or ethical standard.

The state of Minnesota recognizes that healthcare employees should never be afraid of retaliation for sticking up for patients, residents, clients, or anyone else who may be harmed by poor healthcare services. This serves to protect the health and safety of Minnesota citizens and preserve the integrity of the medical system. No one should ever have to choose between their livelihood and others’ health and safety.

Who is protected by the whistleblower healthcare provision?

The law protects all employees who make a protected report, whether you are a doctor, nurse, aide, or any other person who might observe substandard healthcare services at work. This is most common for people working at the following types of facilities:

  • Hospitals
  • Medical and dental offices
  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Mental healthcare providers
  • Addiction treatment providers

What qualifies as a report?

A “report” can be any complaint or objection to substandard care. Protected reports are most commonly made directly to the employer, but they can also include reports to a governmental or licensing body or one of the employer’s affiliates. It’s helpful to identify the law or clinical or ethical standard that’s being violated, but it isn’t always necessary. Additionally, Minnesota law does not require employees to wait for someone to get hurt before protections apply. The report may be protected even if the conduct could potentially cause harm.

What are some examples of substandard or low-quality healthcare?

For purposes of the Minnesota Whistleblower Act, low quality healthcare can be conduct or condition that is below a legal or industry standard and could potentially harm a member of the public, such as a patient, resident, or client of an employer. Examples may include:

  • Services being performed by unlicensed or under-licensed providers
  • Services being performed by a provider who is impaired by drugs or alcohol
  • Inadequate patient or resident supervision
  • Issues with staffing and patient acuity
  • Careless or irresponsible treatment
  • Failure to administer medication or other treatment as prescribed
  • Poor recordkeeping or reporting
  • Abuse and maltreatment of vulnerable adults, elders, or children
  • Unsanitary conditions or practices

What qualifies as retaliation?

Retaliation comes in many forms. Termination is the most obvious, but it can also include:

  • Demotion or transfer
  • Denial of overtime or promotion
  • Disciplinary actions
  • Denial of benefits
  • Failure to hire or rehire
  • Intimidation or harassment
  • Reassignment affecting promotion prospects
  • Reducing pay or hours
  • Post-termination retaliation, such as interference with future job prospects

Contact Our Minnesota Whistleblower Attorneys

If you are experiencing retaliation by your employer for reporting unlawful conduct or refusing to engage in unlawful conduct, contact the experienced whistleblower attorneys at Wanta Thome PLC for a free initial consultation.