John A. Klassen, PA Minnesota Employment Law Attorney
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Knowing when to blow the whistle and invoke whistleblower rights

Being a whistleblower at a place of employment is not an easy position to be in for employees in Minnesota and elsewhere. Even though an employee is taking a step to ensure a business or employer is in compliance with the law, ensuring the health and safety of employees and the legalities of the business, being a whistleblower is not often considered to be positive. In fact, many employees fear taking the step to blow the whistle on an employer out of fear that an employer might retaliate against them for their actions.

In order to address the concern for employer retaliation, employees should understand when they should be a whistleblower and what rights and protections are afforded to them if they decide to do so. If an employee witnesses or believes a violation regarding state or federal laws is occurring at the workplace, reporting a violation is often recommended.

When an employee blows the whistle, it is expected that the employer will be upset. If an employer decides to act in a way towards the whistleblowing employee that will punish them for reporting a violation, that often falls under the category of retaliation. Common forms of retaliation include: firing, laying off, demoting, denying a promotion, denial of benefits, making threats, intimidation, reassignment, reducing pay and other similar acts.

If an employee believes that they are being retaliated against for blowing the whistle on their employer, they have certain rights they could invoke. Whistleblower rights afford employees protection from employer retaliation; however, the employee must have reported the violation to a government agency instead of the employer in order to invoke these rights.

Whistleblower protection allows an employee to file a claim based on employer retaliation. This cause of action could help the employee seek compensation for the losses and damages caused by the incident. If an employee believes they are being retaliated against for whistleblowing, it is important to learn more about the rights and remedies afforded to employees in these situations.

Source: Pay Scale, "What You Need to Know Before Becoming a Whistleblower," Beth Taylor, Jan. 20, 2014

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