Two days ago, in a win for Minnesota employees, the Minnesota Court of Appeals declared that whistleblower protection under Minn. Stat. § 181.932 extends back six years. The case, which was before the appellate panel pursuant to remand by the Minnesota Supreme Court, is still progressing its way through the courts, with the plaintiff finally set to get a jury trial on claims brought over four years ago.
Minnesota’s whistleblower statute protects employees who are wrongfully terminated (or suffer other adverse employment action) at work because of reporting or otherwise opposing their employer’s unlawful conduct. The statute’s goal is to provide remedy for workers by allowing them to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer that illegally discharged them.
The statute reads:
Subdivision 1. Prohibited action. An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten, otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because: (1) the employee, or a person acting on behalf of an employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official; (2) the employee is requested by a public body or office to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry; (3) the employee refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that the employee has an objective basis in fact to believe violates any state or federal law or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to law, and the employee informs the employer that the order is being refused for that reason; (4) the employee, in good faith, reports a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization, or health care provider violates a standard established by federal or state law or a professionally recognized national clinical or ethical standard and potentially places the public at risk of harm; (5) a public employee communicates the findings of a scientific or technical study that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, including reports to a governmental body or law enforcement official; or (6) an employee in the classified service of state government communicates information that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, and that relates to state services, including the financing of state services, to: (i) a legislator or the legislative auditor; or (ii) a constitutional officer. The disclosures protected pursuant to this section do not authorize the disclosure of data otherwise protected by law.
Subd. 2.Disclosure of identity.
The identity of any employee making a report to a governmental body or law enforcement official under subdivision 1, clause (1) or (4), is private data on individuals as defined in section 13.02. The identity of an employee providing information under subdivision 1, clause (2), is private data on individuals if:
(1) the employee would not have provided the information without an assurance that the employee’s identity would remain private, because of a concern that the employer would commit an action prohibited under subdivision 1 or that the employee would be subject to some other form of retaliation; or
(2) the state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision reasonably believes that the employee would not have provided the data because of that concern.
If the disclosure is necessary for prosecution, the identity of the employee may be disclosed but the employee shall be informed prior to the disclosure.
Subd. 3.False disclosures. This section does not permit an employee to make statements or disclosures knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.
Subd. 4.Collective bargaining rights. This section does not diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.
Subd. 5.Confidential information This section does not permit disclosures that would violate federal or state law or diminish or impair the rights of any person to the continued protection of confidentiality of communications provided by common law
Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2014)
Joshua Newville is an attorney and mediator based in Minnesota. He litigates employment and civil rights cases, serves as a mediator for civil disputes, and provides employment law advice.