In May 2013, the Minnesota Legislature amended the Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA). The MWA protects Minnesota employees against retaliation for reporting actual, suspected or planned violations of law. The amendments to the MWA are important because they expand the rights of employees who blow the whistle and correct several court decisions that had limited employees’ rights in the past.
The most significant change to the MWA is that the statute now defines the term “good faith.” Employees are only protected by the MWA if they report suspected illegal conduct by their employer “in good faith.” This has always been the law; but in the past, the term “good faith” was not defined by the statute.
In the past, courts interpreted the term “good faith” in a way that led to some troubling results for employees. For instance, courts barred claims under the MWA when reporting illegal conduct was part of an employee’s job, when an employer was already aware of the illegal conduct they were engaging in, or when an employee made a report that was not sufficiently “formal” or official. These exceptions led to absurd results, so the Minnesota legislature took action to correct this problematic trend and encourage employees to raise concerns about potential unlawful conduct in the workplace.
Now, the MWA defines “good faith” as any and all reports that are not made “knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.” Put another way, any report that is not made knowingly false, or in reckless disregard of the truth, is made in “good faith.”were engaging in, or when an employee made a report that was not sufficiently “formal” or official. These exceptions led to absurd results, so the Minnesota legislature took action to correct this problematic trend and encourage employees to raise concerns about potential unlawful conduct in the workplace.
While the amendments to the law are clearly intended to overrule the prior court decisions that interpreted the term “good faith” to limit employees’ rights, some employers continue to argue that the old cases still apply. Some employers and their lawyers assert that reports are not protected under the MWA if they are made as part of a job duty, if the employer was aware of the illegal conduct already, or in other exceptional circumstances that the legislature has expressly abolished. Consequently, it is important to seek legal advice in deciding whether to make a report of suspected illegal conduct by an employer, or if you believe that you have been retaliated against or wrongfully terminated for making a report.
Schaefer Halleen, LLC, is devoted to providing the highest quality legal representation for individuals and groups affected by illegal conduct by corporate or government entities.