Whistle-Blower protection requires employee’s intent to expose illegality

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Minnesota’s whistle-blower law protects health care workers from retaliation. It is illegal to take adverse employment action against employees who “in good faith, report a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization or health care provider violates” a state, federal or professional clinical or ethical standard and the violation placed the public at risk.

But whistle-blowers must intend to expose illegality; it can’t just be in the context of doing their jobs.

Recent case: Carol Skare worked as a regional nursing director for eight nursing facilities run by Extendicare Health Services. She complained that some of the facilities did not have the appropriate staff required by law.

When her complaints went unheeded, she resigned and sued, alleging she was a whistle-blower entitled to protection. The court disagreed. Because reporting legal problems was part of her job, her complaint didn’t amount to whistle-blowing. Her intent was to do her job, not report illegal conduct. (Skare v. Extendicare Health Services, No. 06-2459, 8th Cir., 2008)

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