Minnesota Strengthens Whistleblower Protections

June 3rd, 2013

Greater protections for Minnesota whistleblowers became a reality on May 24, 2013, when Governor Dayton signed HF542, which enhanced Minnesota’s Whistleblower Act, Minn. Stat. §181.932.

The Act prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who report violations of statutes or regulations, or refuse to engage in conduct that violates the law.  The legislative changes increase whistleblower protection in several ways:

  • The Act makes it easier for whistleblowers to show they acted in “good faith” as required by the statute. New language in the statute defines a good faith report as anything other than a report that is false or in reckless disregard for the truth. This language also eliminates exceptions that Minnesota courts had read into the statute for persons whose jobs involved reporting on illegalities and for reports that did not promote public policy per se. Persons making these kinds of reports are now covered.
  • The Act broadens the conduct that is illegal. An employee will be liable for any “conduct that might dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a report including post-termination conduct by an employer or conduct by an employer for the benefit of a third party;”
  • The Act clarifies and broadens the nature of a “report” for which an employee cannot be penalized. A “report” is defined as a “verbal, written, or electronic communication by an employee about an actual, suspected, or planned violation of a statute, regulation, or common law, whether committed by an employer or a third party;”
  • The Act does not require the employer to have already engaged in the illegal activity to trigger whistleblower protection. Employees are protected who report “planned” violations of the law;
  • The Act previously covered only reports about violations of statutes and regulations. Now it also prohibits retaliation against employees who report violations of the common law;
  • The Act now provides whistleblower protections for public employees reporting unlawful conduct to their legislators or constitutional officers.

The Minnesota Association for Justice and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Employment Lawyers Association were instrumental in the passage of HF 542, which became effective on May 25, 2013. Here is a link to the bill.

Written by Susan M. Coler.

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