This summer, Governor Dayton signed amendments to the Minnesota Whistleblower Act into law that will overcome years of the Act’s decline at the hands of the courts.
The Act had always protected employees from being retaliated against for reporting, in good faith, a violation or suspected violation of law or rule adopted pursuant to law to their employers or the government. However, in a series of opinions over the past several years, including Kidwell v. Sybaritic and Kratzer v. Welsh Cos., the Minnesota Supreme Court manufactured a number of exceptions to the law. For example, the Court read several requirements into the term “good faith.” Under the Court’s narrow definition of “good faith,” employees’ reports were required to be unprecedented, made for the purpose of protecting third parties or advancing public interest, and sometimes outside the scope of the employee’s job duties.
The new amendments eliminate these judicial exceptions and restore the Act’s original meaning. Under the amended law, employees are protected if they report (verbally or in writing) an actual, suspected, or planned violation of a statute, regulation, or common law – regardless of whether the violation was committed by an employer or third party. Minn. Stat. 181.931, subd. 6. In addition, employees no longer need to meet the courts’ broadened definition of “good faith” to be protected; the amendments clarify that making a “good faith” report merely means that the report is not knowingly false or in reckless disregard for the truth. The scope of prohibited retaliation is also clarified to include discharge, discipline, threats, discrimination and any other conduct that might dissuade a reasonable employee from making or supporting a protected report – including retaliation after the employee is fired. On top of these clarifying amendments, public sector employees will also enjoy broader protection under the new law.