Minnesota Supreme Court

Two days ago, in a win for Minnesota employees, the Minnesota Court of Appeals declared that whistleblower protection under Minn. Stat. § 181.932 extends back six years. The case, which was before the appellate panel pursuant to remand by the Minnesota Supreme Court, is still progressing its way through the courts, with the plaintiff finally set to get a jury trial on claims brought over four years ago.

Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

Minnesota’s whistleblower statute protects employees who are wrongfully terminated (or suffer other adverse employment action) at work because of reporting or otherwise opposing their employer’s unlawful conduct. The statute’s goal is to provide remedy for workers by allowing them to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer that illegally discharged them. The statute reads:

Subdivision 1. Prohibited action.

An employer shall not discharge, discipline, threaten, otherwise discriminate against, or penalize an employee regarding the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, location, or privileges of employment because:

(1) the employee, or a person acting on behalf of an employee, in good faith, reports a violation, suspected violation, or planned violation of any federal or state law or common law or rule adopted pursuant to law to an employer or to any governmental body or law enforcement official;

(2) the employee is requested by a public body or office to participate in an investigation, hearing, inquiry;

(3) the employee refuses an employer’s order to perform an action that the employee has an objective basis in fact to believe violates any state or federal law or rule or regulation adopted pursuant to law, and the employee informs the employer that the order is being refused for that reason;

(4) the employee, in good faith, reports a situation in which the quality of health care services provided by a health care facility, organization, or health care provider violates a standard established by federal or state law or a professionally recognized national clinical or ethical standard and potentially places the public at risk of harm;

(5) a public employee communicates the findings of a scientific or technical study that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, including reports to a governmental body or law enforcement official; or

(6) an employee in the classified service of state government communicates information that the employee, in good faith, believes to be truthful and accurate, and that relates to state services, including the financing of state services, to:

(i) a legislator or the legislative auditor; or

(ii) a constitutional officer.

The disclosures protected pursuant to this section do not authorize the disclosure of data otherwise protected by law.

Subd. 2.Disclosure of identity.

The identity of any employee making a report to a governmental body or law enforcement official under subdivision 1, clause (1) or (4), is private data on individuals as defined in section 13.02. The identity of an employee providing information under subdivision 1, clause (2), is private data on individuals if:

(1) the employee would not have provided the information without an assurance that the employee’s identity would remain private, because of a concern that the employer would commit an action prohibited under subdivision 1 or that the employee would be subject to some other form of retaliation; or

(2) the state agency, statewide system, or political subdivision reasonably believes that the employee would not have provided the data because of that concern.

If the disclosure is necessary for prosecution, the identity of the employee may be disclosed but the employee shall be informed prior to the disclosure.

Subd. 3.False disclosures.

This section does not permit an employee to make statements or disclosures knowing that they are false or that they are in reckless disregard of the truth.

Subd. 4.Collective bargaining rights.

This section does not diminish or impair the rights of a person under any collective bargaining agreement.

Subd. 5.Confidential information

This section does not permit disclosures that would violate federal or state law or diminish or impair the rights of any person to the continued protection of confidentiality of communications provided by common law

Minn. Stat. § 181.932 (2014)

{ 0 comments }

Yesterday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed into law an amendment to the Minnesota Human Rights Act that will ensure victims of discrimination and retaliation are entitled to a jury trial.  The bill, SF2322, was passed by the House and Senate in previous weeks and will go into effect on August 1, 2014.

Minnesota Jury Trial Attorneys

Previously, there was uncertainty over whether a victim of workplace discrimination, harassment, or retaliation would receive a jury trial, and to what level the jury’s verdict was entitled to deference.  Due to a legal intersection of federal, state, common, and statutory law, and depending on what claims were brought and in what venue, there were often instances were individuals who have been the target of illegal activity by their employer have only been allowed a trial by judge.   [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

On May 24, 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed HF 542, a bill adding additional protections for whistleblowers.  The Minnesota Whistleblower Act (MWA) was originally passed in 1987, and the purpose was to prohibit employers from acting in a retaliatory manner against employees who made a good faith report of any federal or state law or rule adopted pursuant to law.[1]  Ambiguities in the language of the statute have allowed for many different interpretations on statutory meaning throughout the years.  In Anderson-Johanningmeier v. Mid Minnesota Women’s Center, Inc., the Minnesota Supreme Court dealt with conflicting case law in determining the applicability of a public policy requirement in relation to whistleblower claims.[2]  The court concluded that public policy requirement relating to all whistleblower claims was not in accordance with the statutory language.  While the additional protections signed into law by Governor Dayton do not deal with the public policy requirement, the additions help to clear up other potential ambiguities within the statute.

Minneapolis Employment Law Lawyers

HF 542 serves two purposes in aiding the original whistleblower act.  First, the new law provides a definitional framework for several key terms that were left for interpretation.  Three sections of § 181.931 have terms that are defined in the new law, in an attempt to reduce conflicting interpretations, and to clearly exemplify the laws intent in protection of whistleblowing reports.  Second the bill expands the scope reported violations that are protected. [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

It’s a tactic long used by defendants in both civil and criminal cases.  From charges of rape to sexual harassment, men take the stand and point the finger at their female victims.  Claiming that they “asked for it,” or that they “wanted it,” such men have often found sympathetic audiences in judges and juries.

In three recent and sensational examples (one in Iowa, one in Minnesota, and one in Arizona), Defendants’ attempts to use the “blame her defense” have yielded strikingly different results.  While the cases are very different, both legally and factually, they serve as fascinating examples of a kind of defense that, despite such protections as Title VII and the Minnesota Human Rights Act, female victims must continue to grapple with.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

A San Diego hospital and doctor have been sued by an 18-year-old intern who alleges sexual harassment, sexual battery and assault, hostile work environment, and negligence.   The plaintiff, who was only 17 at the time he began an internship at San Diego Memorial Hospital, alleges that cardiologist David Hicks sexually harassed and assaulted him and that the hospital failed to adequate address a pattern of sexual harassment at the hospital.

In Minnesota, hospitals and clinics that receive complaints of sexual harassment by doctors (either from employees or patients) have many reasons to err on the side of caution when deciding whether or not to discipline such doctors.  In addition to employment law claims, hospitals may be subject to a tort action for negligent retention of the doctor if the same alleged harasser goes on to sexually harass and/or assault another employee or patient.  Further, there are significant protections under Minnesota law for healthcare employers who take such preventative actions as to remove the doctor’s employment and/or privileges to practice.  [click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

For the first time in almost forty years, Republicans controlled both the House and the Senate of the Minnesota Legislature for the previous two sessions.  Despite the veto power of Gov. Mark Dayton (DFL), Minnesota Republicans made significant strides in the latest sessions–including placement on the ballot of the proposed Voter-ID and anti gay marriage amendments.  Whether Republicans retain those majorities in November may have a significant impact on the direction of labor/employment law and various civil rights matters in the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions.

MinnPost photo by James Nord

 

If the Republicans do retain majorities in both houses, one thing to expect is that Minnesota will join the likes of Arkansas, Kansas and Oklahoma in having its voters decide on a “right to work” amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.

[click to continue…]

{ 0 comments }

Medical Leave and Maternity Leave

Hansen v. Robert Half Intnt’l (Minn. 2012):  The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled this week that employees taking medical leave from work do not need to mention the Minnesota Parental Leave Act (MPLA) in order to have their jobs protected by the law while on medical leave.

Read More . . .

{ 0 comments }

LaMont v. Independent School District #728 (Minn. 2012):  The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today that a hostile work environment claim under the Minnesota Human Rights Act may be based on conduct that is based on sex, even if the conduct is not sexual.

Read More . . .

{ 0 comments }