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Minnesota State Supreme Court extends time for whistle-blowers to file

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

The Minnesota Supreme Court has overturned 20 years of precedent, ruling that some whistle-blower cases may be filed up to six years following an employer’s discriminatory act.

The case causing the change in­­volved a Minneapolis Public Schools employee who complained of financial improprieties to the school system’s superintendent. Her contract was not renewed the following year.

She filed her whistle-blower complaint just a day short of two years after her dismissal.

The court dismissed her claim, stating that the two-year clock started ticking when she was told her contract would not be renewed, not upon her termination. She appealed.

The Minnesota Whistleblower Act recognizes two types of employer retaliation, including discipline or termination because of:

  1. Reporting a violation of any law to an employer
  2. Refusing to perform an employer’s order the employee believes violates any state or federal law.

The Supreme Court differentiated claims based on common law or common law claims later codified into law—which had a two-year statute of limitations—and those based solely on statutes with six-year statutes of limitations.

In this case, the court ruled the em­­ployee had six years to file the complaint because retaliation for reporting a violation was a violation created by statute. It is not clear which statute of limitations apply to the refusal to perform an employer’s unlawful order.

Advice: Quickly and professionally investigate all whistle-blower allegations. Thoroughly document your findings and the actions you take. Assume that the six-year statute applies and save the documentation.

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