Both Minnesota and federal law provide protections for workers who speak up when they feel their employers are doing something illegal. When the employer retaliates against a whistle-blower employee, the employee may take legal action against the employer.
Recently, the Minnesota School of Business-Globe University has been embroiled in a lawsuit filed by a former dean who said she was fired after she complained about the way the school told students about their job prospects. She accuses the school of breaking the law, by not giving accurate job placement statistics and other important information to students in its medical assistant training program. She claims she was fired in 2001 when she complained about the school's practices.
Globe University has denied her charges, saying that it had legitimate reasons for firing her. As of this writing, the lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial this month. Interestingly, another former dean has filed a lawsuit against the school, making similar allegations.
Whistle-blower protections are written into many federal laws, so that employees may report their employers' violations of the law without fear of being fired. For example, under federal laws such as the Clean Air Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, employees may report their concerns about safety or health hazards to the employer or to a federal agency, so long as they have a good-faith belief that the employer is violating the law. The whistle-blower protections protect the employee from retaliation, even if it turns out that the employer was not breaking the law. Employees who have been retaliated against unlawfully for reporting these types of concerns must bring a complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration within 30 days.
Minnesota whistle-blower protections work in similar ways and covers more than just safety and health concerns. Generally, the employee must have a good-faith belief that the employer is violating the law and must report the violation to the government or an outside agency, refuse to participate in the law-breaking behavior or must assist in an official investigation.
Minnesota workers who have been unfairly treated at work after complaining about unlawful behavior should get help researching their legal options. Whistle-blowers should be protected when they stand up for what is right.
Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal, "Fired Globe University dean's whistleblower trial set for next week," Jim Hammerand, 2, 2013