Minnesota Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower Laws as they apply to the state of Minnesota

A Summary of Minnesota Whistleblower Laws

Minnesota is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, at-will employees in Minnesota can seek protection through the state’s statutory protections and common law protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to cover specific subject areas such as minimum wage and workers’ compensation whereas common law protections are laws created by courts to address areas not covered by the enacted laws.

This is a summary of Minnesota Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Minnesota

Common Law Protections

Minnesota has a public policy that is recognized as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. This means employers cannot discharge employees for reasons that violate the state’s public policy. In the past, employees who refused to commit or participate in illegal activities have been protected. However, to date, the public policy has only been used in limited situations since the whistleblower’s protection act covers most of the protections for employees.

Statutory protections

Minnesota Whistleblower Protection Act

Employers are not allowed to discharge, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Reporting a violation, suspected violation, or a planned violation of a law, rule, or regulation to a public body or law enforcement official.
  • Participating in an investigation, hearing, or inquiry at the request of a public body or office.
  • Refusing to carry out a directive that would result in a violation of a law, rule, or regulation as long as the employee informs the employer the reason for the refusal.
  • Reporting a situation where the quality of health care services provided by a healthcare facility, organization, or health care provider is below the standards set by federal or state law or below ethical standards and poses a risk to the public’s safety.
  • Disclosing the findings of a scientific or technical study to a government body or law enforcement official as a public employee.
  • Communicating information related to state services to a legislator or constitutional officer if the employee is in the classified service of state government.

To be eligible for protection under this act, employees are required to disclose truthful and accurate information and one that does not show a reckless disregard for the truth.

Minn. Stat. § 181.932.

Discrimination

It is illegal to retaliate against an employee as a reprisal for:

  • Opposing a practice that is outlawed by this statute.
  • Filing a charge under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation, hearing, or proceeding under this chapter.

Under this statute, discrimination based on race, color, creed, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin is forbidden. Minn. Stat. § 363A.15.

Labor Relations Act

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for signing or filing an affidavit, petition, or complaint or giving information under this statute. Minn. Stat. § 179.12(4).

Minimum Wage

It is an unlawful act for an employer to discharge, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Instituting or intending to institute a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Filing a complaint concerning unpaid wages to the employer or with the department of labor.

Minn. Stat. § 177.32.

Occupational Safety and Health

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for exercising a right afforded by this statute. Minn. Stat. § 182.669.

Vulnerable Adults

No person or facility is allowed to in any way retaliate against an individual who reports a suspected maltreatment of an adult who because of a mental or physical disability or dependency on institutional services is vulnerable to maltreatment. Minn. Stat. § 626.557.

Wage Discrimination

Employers are not allowed to discharge, alter terms of employment, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in an investigation, proceeding, or criminal action under this statute.

Under this statute, employers are not allowed to discriminate between their employees on the basis of sex by paying a certain wage to a certain gender even though employees of both sexes are working comparable jobs. Minn. Stat. § 181.67.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers are not allowed to discharge or threaten to discharge an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim. It is also illegal for an employer to obstruct an employee who is seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Minn. Stat. § 176.82.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Minnesota

To file a complaint under the Occupational Safety and Health statute, call the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry at 800-342-5354.

To file a complaint under the discrimination statute, call the Minnesota Department of Human Rights at 1-833-454-0148.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Minnesota

Most wrongful termination claims have a statute limitation of 2 years. So unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation claims should be filed with the appropriate court within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Minnesota Whistleblower Protection Act

Lawsuits under this act should be filed within 2 years of the retaliation. However, employees are also required to request in writing the reason for the termination from the employer within 15 days of the termination. Employers are then required to inform the employee of the truthful reason for the termination within 10 working days of receiving the request.

Occupational Safety and Health

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) within 30 days of the retaliation.

Discrimination in Minnesota

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights within 1 year of the retaliation. In case the department dismisses the claim, the whistleblower should file a lawsuit within 45 days of receiving the dismissal notice.

Workers’ Compensation

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 6 years of the retaliation.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Minnesota

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable to the aggrieved employee for a combination or any of the following:

  • Punitive damages.
  • Injunctive relief.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Back pay.
  • Restoration of lost service credit.
  • Removal of any adverse records related to the retaliation.
  • Litigation costs.

Minnesota Whistleblower Protection Act

Employers who fail to notify an employee of the reason for his or her termination may be liable for a civil penalty ranging from $25 per day per injured employee to $750 per injured employee.

Minimum Wage

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable for a fine ranging from $700 to $3000.

Wage Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

Workers’ Compensation

Employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an employee may be liable for:

  • Damages including any diminution in workers’ compensation benefits caused by the violation of this statute.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Punitive damages not exceeding 3 times the amount of any of the employee’s compensation benefits.

Damages awarded shall not replace the employee’s workers’ compensation benefits.

More Minnesota Laws

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