"Blowing the whistle" on an employer is not easy for employees in Minnesota. However, it is considered an important step for employees to take in certain circumstances. This is especially true in situations involving major violations of state and federal laws. If an employee suspects that an employer is violating a law, reporting this violation is considered a protected activity. This means that an employer is not able to take action against the employee for taking necessary steps to report the employer. Despite this, when an employer is aware of the employee who blew the whistle on them, the employer might retaliate against that employee.
How is it possible to determine whether or not retaliation took place after whistleblowing? If employees believe they are a victim of retaliation after blowing the whistle, they may invoke their whistleblower rights. An investigation will take place and must reveal four things. First, it must show that the employee did engage in protected activity. This means that they are in fact a "whistleblower."
Next, it must be proven that the employer knew about or suspected that the employee in question engaged in this protected activity. Third, the investigation must reveal that the employer took an adverse action against the employee. This could include harassment, demotion, termination or other similar actions. Lastly, it must be proven that the act of whistleblowing by the employee led to or contributed to the adverse action taken by the employer. If evidence supports these four factors, the employee could take action to recover damages caused by the adverse actions taken by the employer. This could mean being reinstated, receiving compensation or both.
While it is not easy to be a whistleblower, employees should be aware of the situations that could arise after the fact. This could help prepare the employee with future action and also help protect employee rights.
Source: Osha.gov, "Your Rights as a Whistleblower," accessed Nov. 9, 2015