Gov. Mark Dayton has signed into law an expansion of the state’s 1987 whistle-blower act. The new Minnesota Whistleblower’s Act protects from retaliation both public- and private-sector employees who report misconduct.
The 1987 law applied only to state employees.
It forbade employers “from discharging, disciplining, threatening, or penalizing an employee in retaliation for making a good faith report of a violation or suspected violation of any federal or state law.” It protected employees who participated in investigations of alleged wrong-doing.
The new whistle-blower law defines “good faith” as “any statements or disclosures” that are not knowingly false or made in reckless disregard of the truth. The new law also defines “penalize” as “conduct that might dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a report, including post-termination conduct by an employer or conduct by an employer for the benefit of a third party.”
The old law failed to define either term, leaving state courts to fill in the blanks. The new law offers more plaintiff-friendly definitions than the courts had previously established.
Advice: To stay on the right side of the law, employers should thoroughly investigate any complaint an employee makes to ensure whistle-blowers do not suffer retaliation.
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