February 12th, 2012

Both Minnesota and federal law protect employees who report illegal activities taking place in their workplace. Under these laws, it is generally illegal for an employer to retaliate against whistleblowers by firing or demoting them, among other actions.

Recently, a federal judge ordered the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to reinstate an employee who had reportedly complained about the poor maintenance of the clinic’s vehicles.

The Mayo Clinic courier had reportedly complained more than two years ago about several things related to the clinic’s fleet. He said that there was a broken windshield on a vehicle; that the clinic did not require daily inspections of some vehicles; and that drivers did not all have the correct certification needed to operate a shuttle bus. A Department of Labor judge has ruled that the Mayo Clinic discriminated against the courier due to this complaint, and put him on a discipline plan that ultimately led to a suspension.

The Mayo Clinic said on Wednesday that it intends to appeal the judge’s decision, countering that the man was disciplined and suspended for reasons unrelated to his safety complaints.

One of the many laws that seem to protect this man’s employment is the federal Surface and Transportation Assistance Act of 1982. The law states that workers cannot be discriminated against, fired or disciplined for filing complaints about commercial vehicle safety.

According to the Rochester Post-Bulletin, Mayo Clinic’s own records of the disciplinary action make reference to the worker becoming argumentative concerning the Department of Transportation shuttle bus requirements.

No Minnesota worker should be punished for trying to protect their rights and safety in the workplace.

Source: Star Tribune, “Labor department rules Mayo Clinic discriminated against whistleblower employee,” Feb. 15, 2012.