It is unlawful for a Minnesota employer to discharge, discipline, threaten, or otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee because:
- An employee in good faith reports violation or suspected violation of any federal or state law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any government body or law enforcement official,
- A public body or office asks an employee to participate in the investigation hearing or inquiry,
- Employee has an objective basis to believe that an employer’s order violates state or federal law and the employee informs the employer that he or she refuses to perform that order because it is illegal, or
- The employee reports the situation in good faith which places the public at risk of harm because of the lack of quality healthcare services provided by healthcare facility, organization, or healthcare provider and the lack of quality violates the federal or state law standard.
Prior to a 2013 amendment of Minnesota’s Whistleblower Act, courts gave a narrow interpretation of the statute and specifically a narrow interpretation of the term “good faith.” However, the 2013 amendment clarified the meaning of good faith and stated that it means employees cannot “make statements or disclosures knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.” Minn. Stat. § 181.931, subd. 4; Minn. Stat. § 181.932, subd. 3.
The restriction on the term “good faith” was most evident in Kidwell v. Sybaritic, Inc., 784N.W.2d 220 (Minn. 2010). In Kidwell, the plaintiff was fired after Kidwell, who was in-house counsel, reported to the Sybaritic management team his concerns over a plot to obstruct the discovery of emails. Court of Appeals held that “as a matter of law, Kidwell’s difficult duty email does not constitute protected conduct under the whistleblower act because he wrote and sent the… e-mail in fulfillment of the duties of his position of employment.” The Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed holding that an employee’s job duties were relevant when assessing good faith.
If an employee is terminated, the employee can request, within five working days after termination, that the employer provide in writing reason for the employee’s termination. Any reason for termination from the employer must be truthful. If it is discovered that an employee was disappointed for the above-described “whistleblowing” and the employer fails to provide a full written reason for termination the employer can be subject to a civil penalty. It should also be noted that the employer is not liable for defamation action from the employee for providing communication on the reason for termination.
An employee’s identity must be kept confidential when making a whistleblowing report unless there is consent from the employee to release his or her name. The rights that an employee has under Minnesota’s whistleblowing law must be summarized and posted by the employer.
Other Employee Protection Statutes
Many Minnesota statutes provide protections for employees in addition to the “whistleblower” law. This includes the Minnesota Human Rights Act, the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, Workers’ Compensation laws, among others.
Financial Reward for Whistleblowers
Some statutes offer financial rewards for whistleblowers: