An employee at the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS) Office of the Inspector General is claiming he faced retaliation in the workplace, which ultimately lead to his termination, for blowing the whistle on racial bias in the enforcement division of the DHS. Ironically, the man’s position in the agency was equity coordinator. He has since filed charges with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) based on discrimination and wrongful termination.
The issue began when the employee commenced an investigation based on complaints that minority child care facilities were being wrongfully targeted by the agency with licensing and enforcement actions. The employee attempted to investigate the situation, per his job duties, but his requests for interviews and data were either ignored or turned down, making it impossible for him to do his job. He was eventually told to limit his duties to internal equity matters. His superiors began making inquiries about his advocacy activities when he was not on the job. When the employee asked why his superiors were making these inquiries into his personal life, he was told that he was considered “an informant.”
Finally, while on medical leave, he was sent an email telling him he was terminated from his position in the agency. He requested to be reinstated and that any “negative and biased” information be taken off his work record. However, he is currently not employed any longer with the DHS, and whether the negative and biased information in his work record was removed has not been reported on.
This is a serious example of why there needs to be laws protecting those who have been wrongfully terminated. In general, a wrongful termination claim exists when an employer discharges a worker for an unlawful reason. For example, employers cannot fire workers based on discriminatory reasons or sexual harassment. They also cannot fire workers in retaliation for the worker having filed a complaint regarding the employer. Workers who believe that they were wrongfully terminated will want to take the appropriate steps to ensure that their legal rights are upheld and that their situation is resolved, whether this means reinstatement or pursuing damages.